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Waste at stations and on trains

In 2015, NS, ProRail and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management signed the Green Deal on waste reduction and recycling. Under this deal, the signatories subscribe to the ambitious goal of reducing the amount of passenger waste by 25% in 2020 compared with 2014. Together we want to collect 75% of that waste separated so that it can be used for recycling. The participants in the Green Deal have deliberately set the bar very high, as a means of challenging each other. We do not expect to be able to actually achieve the target in 2020; however we are striving to achieve the best possible results. The Green Deal will terminate next year, and we will then report on the results attained and the lessons learned.

Various pilots conducted over the past few years have taught us a great deal about the best ways to separate waste at the stations and on our trains. Waste can only be recycled if it is sufficiently clean when collected. Paper and organic waste increasingly meet this criterion at the source, i.e. where the waste is discarded. For other types of waste at the stations, post-separation appears to be more effective. Post-separation means that valuable raw materials, such as plastics and metals, are extracted from the waste after collection, in a sorting plant. NS and ProRail are examining which combination of separation at the source and post-separation yields the best sorting results and how we can explain this to passengers and visitors in our stations.

Reducing waste and using it as raw material

NS is encouraging its own employees and its tenants, suppliers and passengers to reduce waste. For example, we offer passengers a discount for hot drinks when they bring their own cups. This enabled us to reduce the number of disposable cups by approximately 300,000 in 2019 (as measured at NS's own retail outlets). Since the end of 2019, nearly 90% of all passengers pass a drinking water fountain at the station. Retail outlets have begun selling refillable water bottles with filtered and chilled tap water. We also ask our passengers to leave their newspapers in the luggage racks so that others can also read them, thus serving more customers with fewer newspapers.
In 2019, NS signed the Plastic Pact, an initiative of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. The pact unites parties in tackling the challenges they face when reducing and improving plastics, for example by stimulating reuse of plastics, applying recycled materials in packaging, boosting demand for recyclates, and optimising communication on waste separation.
We ran an awareness campaign in our offices, workshops and employee facilities, alerting people to the benefits of reusing coffee cups. As a result, the number of disposable coffee cups fell by more than 10% (around 10 million cups) in 2019 relative to 2018. In our Utrecht offices we also launched an initiative to collect coffee cups and recycle them into toilet paper. In this way we try to find new uses for our waste and reduce the use of disposable cups. We are also running a trial with 200 reusable cups for NS colleagues as part of the same project. These cups are designed to be brought to work and used every day. The outside is made of recycled material: each cup contains material from six used disposable cups. This enables us to reuse discarded disposable cups and prevent waste.
We successfully started a campaign in our offices in 2019 to collect plastic bottle caps on behalf of KNGF guide dogs. We have also installed new waste separation systems and hung up waste separation guides in the refurbished office pantries. Every week, NS Train Modernisation collects 380 kilogrammes of coffee grounds for use as a raw material in an oyster mushroom cultivation facility.

Waste recycling

Including scrap trains, NS produced around 21 million kilogrammes of waste in 2019 (2018: around 18 million kilograms excluding scrap trains). In 2019, staff at our workshops were able to separate 82% of the waste (2018: 81%). Four per cent of our waste is removed as hazardous waste annually (2018: 4%).
Of all consumer waste produced at our stations and on trains, we presented 18% as sorted waste for recycling (2018: 32%). This decrease results from our choice for an alternative, more advanced post-separation installation, which makes it possible to recycle more valuable raw materials from our waste. We first ran a trial with this system on a small part of our waste. Following that successful pilot phase, at the end of 2019 we began post-separating a large part of our residual waste. We expect to see a sharp increase in the volume of recycled consumer waste starting in early 2020 thanks to this system. We now separate more consumer waste at the source compared with 2018. Passengers can separate waste paper at 17 stations and in all trains. Our retail staff separate paper and cardboard at 70 stations. At 18 seven stations they also separate out organic waste for bio-fermentation. Part of our consumer waste was separated out at a post-separation plant.
In total in 2019, 46% of waste from our offices, workshops, stations and trains was separated and offered for recycling (2018: 45%). Ultimately our waste processing companies managed to recycle 46%, and 54% was incinerated for energy recovery. A very small fraction of our waste (0.5%) has to be dumped in landfills.

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