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The Netherlands (Holland) - Household

Dutch people are very house-proud, and their homes and gardens are often kept in pristine condition. The pride in their homes may be one reason why curtains are usually left open after dark in Holland, although it is also claimed that this practice reflects the open, modest nature of the Dutch character, with open curtains signifying that they have nothing to hide. Gardens are similarly well-tended, and often include a variety of colourful flowers, plants and garden ornaments.

It is unusual for any but the richest of Dutch people to have live-in household help, but some people do hire a part-time cleaning lady (werkster). Most cleaning ladies work cash-in hand or “in the black” (zwart werken), i.e. without making tax or social security contributions on their income, lthough tax-paying “white” cleaners (witte werksters) can be recruited via cleaning agencies (Schoonmaakbedrijven), for a higher hourly rate. Casual part-time cleaners can sometimes be found by advertising in the local press or on a supermarket noticeboards, or by asking friends for recommendations, but they are usually in short supply.

Although there are relatively low property crime rates in the Netherlands, break-ins do occur. It is therefore advisable to lock the door of your home when going out, and to consider arranging for a specialist security company (beveiligingsbedrijven) to install an electronic alarm system or other security measures such wired fences, video cameras or security lighting, if you live in an affluent area. Some insurance companies give discounts on property or contents insurance to householders who take steps to secure their property in this way. In many areas, the local police service carry out security inspections and make recommendations for improvements, free of charge. You should also consider informing the police if you are going to be away from home for an extended period.

Smoke alarms should be fitted in homes and can be purchased at hardware stores, along with other equipment such as fire blankets. Most Dutch householders complete identification cards (Meterkast Identificatie Kaart) with details of everyone living in the property, and hang these in the hallway meter cupboard, where they will be consulted by the emergency services if necessary. The emergency telephone number in the Netherlands is 1-1-2 for all services, and the non-emergency police number is 0900 8844.

Refuse Collection and Recycling

There is a high level of interest on the part of the Dutch government and the general public in protecting the environment and many types of products are recycled, including around 90% of paper and 85% of all glass. In shops, deposits are charged on many glass and plastic soft drinks bottles and some other bottles and jars, which are returned in the form of shopping credits on return of the empty bottles. The government has imposed a recycling tax (verwijderingsbijdrage) on the purchase of household appliances and electronic equipment, which is intended to help cover the cost of recycling the one being replaced, whenever this takes place.

In most parts of the country two main bins, or partitions of a single refuse container, are used to separate recyclable organic waste and other type of household waste, for weekly collection at the roadside. In most cases, a green (groen) bin is designated for use in throwing away recyclable organic waste, such as vegetable peelings, food leftovers and small amounts of garden waste, which are recycled for use as compost, and a grey (grijs) bin for use in disposing of other household refuse. It is important to use the correct bins for particular types of waste products, and to put them out for collection on the designated dates, as notified by the local authorities at the beginning of each year. In most areas there are also scheduled dates several times a year for collection from residential homes of chemical waste, such as paint and cleaning products, using a specially designed truck (chemokar).

Some local authorities’ recycling schemes also include the collection of glass and paper products. Alternatively, these can be taken to recycling points in various convenient locations such as supermarket car parks, or to the local waste disposal depot (Afvalscheidingsstation). Bulky household items can also be taken to these depots for recycling or disposal, although garden waste will only be accepted if it is certified by a government inspector as being free of contaminants. Most local authorities will also collect large household items for disposal free of charge, by prior arrangement with their refuse department, if the items meet certain specified regulations.

Recycling bins for light household waste are conveniently located in many public places and are generally in different colours to indicate which type of waste should be disposed of in them, such as yellow for glass and blue or red for used batteries. Some glass recycling facilities require the separation of white, brown and green items. There are also usually bins for paper products, including newspapers and magazines and paper wrappers, and sometimes for clothes and shoes. However, clothes and shoes which are still in good condition can be donated to charities, details of which can be obtained from Stichting Kleding Inzameling Charitatieve Instellingen.

Computer printer cartridges and toner can be recycled or refilled under scheme run by private employers and local authorities; information on their disposal and re-use is available at ICT Nederlands deal with the disposal and recycling of computer hardware.

Unused prescription medicines and any other out of date or unwanted medicines should be taken to a pharmacy for disposal.

Flea markets and fancy fairs are held in most towns, where anyone can hire a table to sell their unwanted household items. There are also many second-hand book shops which will often buy books that are in good condition.

Useful links:

Stichting Kleding Inzameling Charitatieve Instellingen
Viaductweg 2
2525 KL Den Haag
Tel: 070 - 383 03 06
Fax: 070 - 385 15 50

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