Rubbish inspectors, compulsory compost collection and communal underground bins are just some of the reasons why the Dutch are leading the world in waste management – and Australia is not.
The Netherlands recycles 81 per cent of its waste, incinerates 17 per cent to produce energy and only two per cent ends up in landfill.
In Australia, about 40 per cent goes to landfill.
A significant amount of our recyclables used to be sold to China but restrictions have put a stop to that, and the nation is facing a waste crisis.
Waste management pioneer Herman Huisman believes the answer is in the ‘Dutch approach’.
“We have this expression: ‘never waste a good crisis’,” Mr Huisman, who works for the Netherlands infrastructure and water management ministry, told AAP.
“In that time you can really make good progress.”
The biologist with more than 40 years’ experience in waste management has led reforms to his country’s waste industry since the early 1990s and will share his expertise with the Australian industry at the Waste Expo on October 3 and 4.
In a nutshell, the Dutch approach is: avoid creating waste, recover valuable raw materials, generate energy by incinerating non-recyclable waste, and only then dump the leftovers.
Starting in 1990, Mr Huisman directed a new waste management council that combined all tiers of Netherlands government.
With NGOs and industry players he drew up a national waste management plan and set about reshaping the world of waste as Dutch people know it.
The government brought in landfill bans, landfill taxes and variable charging – “the more you recycle, the less you pay”.
“Container parks” were installed all over the country – openings in the ground for paper, glass, plastics and non-recyclables.
“You have to make recycling very easy and convenient,” Mr Huisman said.
Recycling became easier and discarding non-recyclables became harder.
They introduced law enforcement in the form of rubbish inspectors for those who did not comply.
“If you don’t discard it properly and just put it at the curbside and dump it, then our inspectors, they will try to hunt you down and then you will pay for this one event more than you pay for one year,” Mr Huisman said.
In 2015, the waste management council he’d helped start 25 years earlier was disbanded because its goals had been met and “waste was not really a political issue anymore”.
The Netherlands is now in a new phase of its waste journey where it has knowledge to share.
Mr Huisman believes Australia is where his country was in the 90s, where the challenge was to divert from landfill.
A number of Dutch waste management companies – world leaders in their field – will attend this week’s Waste Expo at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre with the aim of moving into the Australian market.
They see Australia as ripe for investment.