Separated rubbish ends up in one big heap

The bins are there to 'teach us to sort waste'

By Vincent Bongers

The university forces students and staff to sort rubbish very carefully, but most of it eventually ends up in the same heap

The faculties and canteens have signs with very specific instructions to say which rubbish should go in which bin. 

However, LVS, a political party for students, heard “rumours” that the company that collects the separated waste throws it all back together again, so, at the University Council meeting, they demanded an explanation from the Executive Board.
The Vice-Chairman of the Board, Martijn Ridderbos, admitted that a large part of the separated waste was indeed “thrown onto a big heap”. “It’s the same at all universities. At the moment, there aren’t any waste management operators who can make a profit from processing separated waste. It’s something we really want, but we simply can’t arrange it with the market as it is.”
Some of the separated rubbish is ends up together, says Caroline van Overbeeke, the university spokesman. “Organic waste and food leftovers are turned into biogas and compost. Waste paper and cardboard are processed to make new paper and cardboard.”
But plastic and metal packaging, drinks cartons (also called: PMD) and residual waste “does, unfortunately, end up in a big pile.”
It is strange that the university currently gives students and staff the impression that all their rubbish is separated. Ridderbos adds: “We’re preparing staff and students for the time when it is possible.”
According to Van Overbeeke, the rubbish can be processed separately, “but now, only household rubbish, not commercial waste, is processed separately.”
Why? “The installations that sort PMD and recycle it are running at full capacity at the moment, to process all the waste from Dutch households. Because commercial waste is different from rubbish from households, it can’t be collected together.
“The levies on the production of plastic packaging materials only apply to household packaging. The levies compensate municipal authorities for sorting and processing waste properly. There aren’t any levies on commercial waste yet.”
The university has a contract with Vliko, a waste management operator. “We have a concession until 2019, with an option for renewal for 2020”, Ridderbos explains. “We’ll renew it for a year, and when the new tendering process starts, we’ll see if we can find a company that can separate waste.”
“The university wants more insight into the waste flows and is busy investigating the market”, continues Van Overbeeke. “The future tendering process for university waste management will partly be based on that data. In other words, the better students and staff sort their rubbish, the more representative the data. A change in behaviour will also have indirect benefits: by making students and staff aware of the importance of sorting waste, the university hopes that they will continue to do it at home.”

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