Photo: Liza Kollau

Waste as a resource

4 April 2023

At Dutch National Opera & Ballet (DNO&B), we separate all waste before it is collected. While this is a rather laborious process – we have no fewer than 17 waste flows – it helps us with recycling and contributes to the production of new resources.

Besides housing the theatre, the DNO&B building is home to the costume department, the wood workshop, offices and restaurant facilities. Together, they produce quite a bit of waste.

Julie Fuchs, Sustainability Coordinator: ‘We have no fewer than 17 waste flows, from old fluorescent tubes to textiles, and from paper to frying fat. That is quite the logistical challenge, but luckily we have a large in-house waste station where we collect everything.’

Electric boat

DNO&B has teamed up with other cultural institutions nearby to create the Zero Waste Expedition. The goal is to separate as much waste as possible. The better the waste is separated at source, the higher the recycling rate and the more efficient the conversion into new resources.

The DNO&B waste station has three compactors that compress the waste: one for plastics and drink cartons, one for paper and cardboard, and one for residual waste. Fuchs: ‘Because the waste is compacted, it doesn’t have to be collected as often. This is how we reduce our carbon footprint.’

‘The waste we produce is collected by emission-free electric boat’

The compactors are transported to the Amstel river by electric cart, where a crane loads them onto an emission-free electric boot that drives them to a central collection point. Fuchs: ‘The route the boat takes allows it to collect waste from all participating cultural institutions on the same drive.’ This is how the Zero Waste Expedition contributes to the quality of life in the local area. Thanks to the partnership for waste collection by electric boat, local traffic is reduced by 45 trucks per week.


Less residual waste

But even if waste is separated meticulously, some 40% of it does not lend itself to recycling. Fuchs: ‘The best way to reduce waste is to produce less. So, we’ll have to change our procurement practices and focus more on how a product is packaged. We’re going to stop using single-use coffee cups because they produce about 350 kilos of waste every year. They’ll be replaced by ceramic cups. And we’ll be installing extremely efficient small dishwashers. We buy green electricity, so that’s definitely renewable already.’


Pointe shoes are residual waste

There is a type of residual waste that is very specific to DNO&B: pointe shoes. Fuchs: ‘Our dancers use about 320 pairs of rehearsal pointe shoes every year. They can’t go into the textile recycling bin because they consist of too many different materials. That’s why they’re incinerated as residual waste.’ Much of the other rehearsal dancewear does go into the textile bin for recycling.

‘Worn rehearsal dancewear goes into the textile recycling bin’

DNO&B asks prominent dancers to sign their used pointe shoes. These shoes are sold and the proceeds go towards buying new ones. Fuchs: ‘The people who buy the signed shoes are very happy to have them and to put them on display at home. That’s a great form of recycling: a new lease of life as a showpiece!’

Text: Anne Havelaar