Put What Where – vol.1

As promised in my previous blog post about my newly implemented trash cans, this blog post is dedicated to the process of sorting out my ‘maybe’ pile – all the garbage that I wasn’t sure where to put.


‘Maybe’ pile to sort out


Let the sorting begin!

Our first contestant today is the onion packaging from the famous local supermarket, Albert Heijn.


No idea…

Keep your eyes open for the logos!

I was scratching my head, whether the net is plastic, and whether the label is considered paper.. Honestly, I had no idea.
And then at one point I noticed, I was making this way harder for myself than I should – the packing was telling me what to do! Literally! It uses little logos as instructions to save me from all this trouble. See how it says:

– NET: bij plastic, so the net clearly goes into plastic,

– OVERIG: bij restafval, so anything but the net goes into the normal trash.


Phew! That was easy!
IMG_4100IMG_4096Moving on to the next item: the bottle for cooking cream. Before thinking too much I started looking at the packaging in detail, and sure enough, I was just as lucky as in the previous case, as this was also ‘self-sorting’ garbage: the packaging clearly tells me what to do with it, very specifically for each part:
– the little tin foil that seals it goes into normal trash
– the bottle goes into plastic


IMG_4107Next item: blister packaging of pills. I’m pretty sure this goes into ‘restafval’, but I wanted to doublecheck if it doesn’t qualify for some other bucket. And that’s when I stumbled on a website that is specifically dedicated to nothing else but to help you figure where to throw stuff. It’s called the Afvalscheidingswijzer, done by the Milieu Centraal and it’s brilliant. It’s basically the Dutch Put-What-Where dictionary for trash.

You basically start typing in anything, and it will give you suggestions on what you might mean.afvalscheiding

Once you figure out what is the thing you are looking for in Dutch (great way to learn new words), you just click enter and then it tells you where it belongs. So in case of the blister pack of pills, it goes into the leftover trash.


I couldn’t stop at this point, so I had to check: and yes, sure enough, Afvalscheidingswijzer exists in the form of a smartphone app too (the Netherlands never ceases to amaze me in this regard)! It’s available for both Android and iOS.

IMG_4094IMG_4095So from here on I tried checking each and every item through these services.

For plastic packaging of meat from the supermarket for example it gives quite a long description of how it differs per Gemeente how it’s dealt with (in Amsterdam it goes into the plastic bin). It also answers all those additional questions you might have, like that it should be delivered ‘schud- en schraap-schoon’ = shake and scrape clean, and that the stickers on it are no problem.

Next in line was the piece of styrofoam in my pile. Now, I’m already aware that not all plastic goes into the plastic bin, and I had a feeling that this is not the simple type of plastic, so I did some investigation.  After some googling I eventually figured that in Dutch it’s called ‘piepschuim’ (literally beep-foam, don’t ask me why). As it turns out, it indeed doesn’t go into plastic, and the big chunks (so from the packaging of say, machines) are actually supposed to be taken to a Milieustraat = recycling center  or put out with the bulk-waste (what the entails might take up a whole other chapter on its own by the way).


vlees.pngLucky for me, ‘dirty’ pieces like the tiny styrofoam pieces at the bottom of meat packages are to be put into the normal trash.

The remaining packaging part, as discussed above, goes into plastic (if not too dirty).


IMG_4085IMG_4086Last but not least, I took on the challenge of sorting out the label of a sweater.
I was both annoyed and amazed by the effort and amount of materials that were used to create this piece of something, not even sure what to call it, maybe I can go as far as calling it art, not sure. What’s for sure is that it’s a thing that is eventually definitely going to end up being trash either way. Anyway, as much as I could figure, I ended up separating it by:
– putting the cardboard into paper
– putting the little rope into ‘restafval’
– putting the little metal thingie also into restafval.

I’m pretty sure the latter is wrong, as metal is categorised as something that is supposed to by recycled at the Milieustraat points, but I’m also pretty sure that they will laugh at me if I go there and show up with a tiny piece of metal like this, and I also wouldn’t make the trip for so little. On the other hand, maybe I should start having a metal pile… Will have to think about that!

So learnings from this exercise: recycling is time-consuming, but the more often you do it, the more you learn and the more you get used to it.

For example by now if you’ve been reading my blog you know that in Amsterdam:

  1. the main recyclables are Paper, Glass, Plastic
  2. ‘self-sorting trash’ has instructions on it to tell you where it belongs
  3. tools can help you sort further: Afvalscheidingswijzer website and apps (Android, iOS)


Happy sorting!



New Year, New Trash (cans!)

As part of my journey on leading a more sustainable lifestyle, I am spending time to become more familiar with the rules of recycling. Which also means becoming more and more aware of the waste I am producing.

I’ve already been doing some selection process of my waste before, by putting glass and paper separately. But I thought I’d up my game, and so in the last couple weeks or so, I have been separating my trash into 5 different piles, for which I had to ‘install’ 5 different trash collection devices in my kitchen and living room. You might think it’s not a pretty view, but my motto is, ‘recycling is sexy!’ And frankly, you get used to it.

So I established separate bins for the most common household materials that are recyclable in Amsterdam.

Plastic and paper
Restafval - the 'leftover' trash

Trash 1. Glass

Wine bottles, pickle jars and all sorts of other ‘glass’ items are collected in a pretty little box (coincidentally, the cardboard box of a trash can)

Trash 2. Paper

Newspapers, cardboard boxes, and other ‘paper’ items are stored in a lovely ikea bag

Trash 3. Plastic

Plastic items that are allowed in the plastic collection point (a blogpost on that will follow) are collected in a … er, well, plastic bag (ironic, I know)

Trash 4. Waste

And my original trash can stayed dedicated for the ‘restafval’, which is bascially the waste that cannot be recycled.

So this are 4 trash cans. And I said a had 5. So what is my mysterious pile nr. 5?


Trash 5. … ?

Well, it’s exactly that. It’s mysterious. I’ve been referring to it with all kinds of names, the ‘don’t know’ pile, the ‘maybe’ or ‘whatever’ pile. Technically, any of my waste should fit into one of the above categories. However, I had a feeling that some of them might not belong to the leftovers, and some of them might not be recyclable after all. It’s basically a collection of things I had doubts along the process of separating and have no idea what to do with. So all questionable items went into this ‘maybe’ pile – I stuck with naming it ‘maybe’, as I felt it’s the most optimist to think of these items as ‘maybe recyclable.’ It’s a hopeful little pile.

So I’ve been collecting this little ‘maybe’ pile for a while now – as you can see it includes items of various origin, material, and size. None of which I have any idea of where it belongs to.

Stay tuned for my upcoming post in which I go through the process of figuring where to put what from my ‘maybe’ pile!

The ‘maybe’ pile

The waste after Christmas


As enchanting as Christmas maybe, it’s also unfortunately the most wasteful holiday we have. Sigh. Yep, there’s a pretty high price to pay for all the pretty presents under those trees.

And I’m not even planning to go into detail on the actual production of the gifts themselves and so on. I am plainly referring to the tradition of the trees and the wrapping of the gifts. To quote some facts, for example the amount of wrapping paper thrown out at Christmas in the UK is about 83 km2, which means you could wrap the whole city of Groningen with it. Or the number of Christmas trees dumped into landfills or incinerated in the UK is 6 million. I don’t think I need to put that number in perspective. It’s simply a lot. A lot a lot a lot.

Yikes. So let’s just all agree, that the numbers are depressing.

This got me thinking. I went to fetch my mail, and having only recently moved I have yet to put up the sticker on my mailbox to keep out all the commercial magazines, so needless to say my post was full of it. I was grabbing all of those to take them to the paper trash, and then I stopped and wondered. Hmmm, these magazines and wrapping paper seem to have a lot in common! They are both made out of paper, they are both used normally once and then thrown away. So, instead of throwing these away, and buying wrapping paper which will be also be thrown away later, why not use those magazines as wrapping paper?

So I did! And guess what, the recipients enjoyed the presents just as much. Duh. :)

Gifts wrapped in papers that try to sell me insane amount of fireworks for NYE.

It’s too late now to unwrap and rewrap, as Christmas has just passed, but for those reading this there’s still something you can do for your conscience and ease the terrible guilt you might be feeling right now:

1. Recycle the packaging and wrapping papers accordingly

2. Instead of throwing out, keep some of the wrapping paper and re-use it for other present opportunities. I know it seems weird at first, but remember, it becomes normal if you keep doing it!

3. After multiple reuses, repeat advice nr. 1.

Okay, so we’re done with the wrapping paper. But what about those poor Christmas trees? Not everyone has awesome sustainability-conscious parents like mine, who have obtained a plastic Christmas tree back 25 years ago and have reused that every year. To which honestly, the only backdraw is that as a kid, the tree seems smaller every year – because well, you kind of grow, but the tree doesn’t. But that’s really all there is to it, otherwise it’s neat – no pine-needles all over the floor, no hassle about getting, transporting and trashing it – it can conveniently be grabbed and put back into the attic every year, and no money wasted every year – just one initial investment which lasts for a last time. Except if your Mom is as resourceful as mine, who just found ours on the street, so we’ve probably been as green as can be, whilst having a free Christmas tree for the last quarter of the decade.

The Christmas tree that has seen more Christmases than me.

Long story short, I strongly recommend everybody to consider switching to a sustainable tree-solution. You have a year for these facts to sink in. But for now it’s too late to un-buy the one you already have standing in your living room.

However, you will need to get rid of it soon. And fortunately enough, the city of Amsterdam provides a green solution for that. All you need to do is bring the tree to the designated collection spots at the designated times and they take care of the rest – in a sustainable way. There are 6 of these points throughout the city, in all major areas, and they are generally available from January 4. The lucky ones living in Oost get not only 50 eurocents for every tree, but also take part in a lottery for prizes! Not to miss! For more info, read along here on the dedicated Gemeente page.

Happy sustainable holidays to all!

All the boxes in the right boxes

Having just recently moved, there was a lot of Ikea furniture unwrapping to do. Which means that the living room practically looked like a cardboard box war-zone. Looking around I thought this is a good theme for my first blog post on sustainability – let’s recycle some paper!

And actually not just some paper.. but a lot of it. The boxes for a small couch, tv furniture and 2 night-stands ended up weighing a whopping 8 kilograms in total – a surprising 10% of the weight of the products themselves.

Medium cardboard package of 2 kgs
Leftover cardboard pieces 1kg
Monster cardboard package of 5 kgs

Being new to my district, I was not yet aware of where the nearest paper recycling station was. This is the perfect opportunity to promote the dedicated garbage section of the Gemeente Amsterdam website, which has a searchable map showing all the recycling stations in the city.

The recycling bins are really well placed, so we only had to carry the packages on a 3-minute walk (300 m).

So what is the impact of this little action? Well, according to some calculations based on these figures, recycling of the above 8 kg of paper saves around 20 liters of oil, 212 liters of water and 0,136 trees.

Many a little makes a mickle!

Last, but not least, additional plus points for Ikea: next to the computers on which you can print your furniture setups they have put garbage bins specifically for paper! :)