Waste collection: a new topic for research in city logistics

Waste collection is an important volume in city logistics today. In the LEVV-LOGIC project the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (NL) performed research on waste and the potential use of light commercial vehicles for waste collection in cities.

Both households and organisations produce waste. The amount of waste produced is not equally distributed between households and organisations. In The Netherlands, 85% of all waste is produced by organisations (Hajer & Dassen, 2014). This leaves 15% of the total waste volume to be household waste. However, since this is a national number including large industries, this might not be representative in an urban context.

A benchmark from the highly urbanized country of Singapore shows a ratio between household and commercial waste of approximately fifty-fifty (Sutanto & Bai, 2001). Considering a city like Amsterdam, where households produce approximately 300.000 tons of waste (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2015), we could cautiously assume that Amsterdam produces a similar amount of commercial waste, adding up to a total of 600.000 tons of waste per year.

Household waste (under which we shall also categorize litter) is collected under the responsibility of the municipality either door-to-door in bags, via (underground) containers in the neighbourhood or in shops (for specific waste streams such as e-waste). For the large quantities of waste that will not fit in the containers there are large waste collection points on the edges of the city. Commercial waste is collected by private contractors. Each individual organisation is responsible for contracting a waste collector. This means that there are multiple collectors currently collecting commercial waste throughout the Netherlands. Commercial waste separation depends on individual arrangements between the organisation and the contractor

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For all waste types, transportation to the outskirts of the city, where the materials can be processed or trans shipped to other destinations, is primarily executed by large trucks with a capacity of approximately 10 tonnes of waste, depending on the vehicle type (Hogeschool van Amsterdam, 2016).

Both for household waste and commercial waste collection in separate streams is facilitated. To do so, households depend largely on the infrastructure supplied by the municipality. Local differences in facilities depend on municipal policy. Organisations rely on the capabilities of private collectors. Organisations are obliged to separate their waste streams, unless waste streams waste separation is too complex or expensive to execute due to low volumes and/or diffuse waste streams (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu, 2014). At present and in general, the most important waste streams that are collected are:

  • Paper and cardboard
  • Glass
  • Plastics and other packaging materials
  • Organic waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Electronic waste
  • Residual waste


Future trends in waste collection market affecting last mile logistics

Two major trends in the waste collection market affect last mile logistics. The first is the increasing attention for clean and liveable neighbourhoods, due to pressure on public space. The second development is a trend towards a circular economy, in which the value of waste is maximised.

Attention for clean and liveable neighbourhoods demands higher service and different processes

Due to an increasing number of city inhabitants and visitors, the pressure on public and commercial space increases. This causes problems concerning both household and commercial waste. This is particularly visible in densely populated areas.

Since the pressure on household and commercial space in inner cities is rising, there is less and less space available for storing waste waiting to be collected. Both household and commercial waste is being put on the streets long before the collection day or next to a container when it happens to be full.

A second characteristic of the current process is that due to their size and weight, waste collection vehicles have a significant negative impact on congestion, road safety and infrastructural load. Also, since these vehicles are not suitable for full electrification yet, they contribute to air and noise pollution.

Increasing attention for these problems puts pressure on last mile logistics to come up with service-oriented solutions that have a less disturbing influence on in house/in company or public space.

The value of separately collected waste is increasing

In the circular economy, waste is treated as a valuable resource. The trend towards a circular economy demands for more waste separation, preferably at the source (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu, 2014). The municipality of Amsterdam has translated this for the household waste stream as an increase from 27% in 2015 to 65% by the end of 2020 (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2015). For specific streams, such as e-waste, national or even EU-wide targets have been set (Hennon & Westeren, 2012) For commercial waste, separation is – as already mentioned – obligatory depending on permits and local policies.

Moreover, the value of certain waste streams is increasing, whereas the costs for processing unsorted waste are rising. In the end, this will lead to more waste streams being collected separately, which results in streams of  relatively small volume.

Both trends lead to an increased amount of waste streams that have to be collected separately and with a higher frequency. More refined last mile (or better “first mile”) logistical processes are needed to accommodate this (Rli, 2013).


  • Higher collection service levels are necessary to keep the city clean
  • Need for separate collection due to scarcity of raw materials and increasing waste value
  • More refined last mile (“first mile”) waste collection processes are needed to accommodate this.


Impact of future trends on use of LEVV

The developments mentioned create opportunities for the use of Light Electric Vehicle’s (LEVV) in waste collection. This however does not account for all waste streams. Most promising for collection by LEVV are waste streams that:

  1. represent a high value and/or put high pressure on the environment if not properly disposed of. An example is e-waste.
  2. have a relatively high density and/or – due to its characteristics – necessity of highly frequent collection. An example is organic waste.
  3. are relatively easy to take as a reverse logistics stream in the shop distribution process, such as cardboard boxes.

E-waste consists of discarded electrical appliances and represents a relatively high value as compared to other waste streams (BRON). Moreover, disposing of e-waste in the wrong way puts a lot of pressure on the environment, due to pollution or unnecessary extraction of raw materials. The policy on e-waste dictates that as from 2019 85% of all e-waste produced in the Netherlands has to be collected and processed separately (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-898_en.htm). This is hardly feasible when collection processes remain as is. Especially small electric appliances are not collected and processed according to policy (http://afvalscheiden.nu/afvalstromen/elektrische-apparaten/). Collection service level needs to be improved in order to do so. The use of LEVV for highly frequent collection could fulfill this need, since e-waste value is relatively high and volumes are low. Moreover, e-waste characteristics allow for combining collection with delivery by LEVV of for instance parcels.

Organic waste will become a more valuable resource as techniques for qualitative processing are continuously being developed (TNO, 2015). At present organic household waste is barely collected in urban areas. This is due to the amount of high rise buildings, where there is insufficient space for storing organic waste separately and the detrimental effect of the current bulky waste collection process on organic waste quality. Commercial organic waste is usually collected separately, but due to its high volume in areas with lots of cafes and restaurants, the need for holders to dispose of it regularly and quickly, there is a necessity of highly frequent collections. Also, because of the dense population and large amount of visitors in these areas the need for less disturbing forms of waste transportation is highest. These circumstances are in favor of alternative transportation methods such as LEVV.

The model for picking up waste combined with deliveries can be described as ‘reverse logistics’.Not all types of waste are compatible with the use of LEVV in combination with reverse logistics. Some types of waste are too hazardous, odorous or come in too large quantities to be able to be transported by LEVV. Relatively small, clean and lightweight materials are most suitable. Cardboard and plastics fit the profile best. When the plastics are clean and the air is removed, it can be a condensed, clean and light waste stream suitable for transportation via LEVV.


  • LEVV can be used for both commercial and household waste.
  • Waste streams that have a relatively high density and/or – due to its characteristics – necessity of highly frequent collection is suitabe for collection by LEVV. An example is organic waste.
  • Waste streams that represent a high value and/or put high pressure on the environment if not properly disposed of are suitabe for collection by LEVV. An example is e-waste.
  • Waste streams that are light and easy to transport are suitable for reverse logistics with LEVV.



Case study

In Rotterdam, waste collector Van Gansewinkel has performed a test with a small electric garbage truck. The innovative electric vehicle has been developed with Spijkstaal from Spijkenisse. The vehicle has a maximum speed of 32 kilometres per hour and a range of approximately 60 kilometers. Because of the reduced speed limit, drivers of the vehicle do not require HGV-licenses. With the deployment of the electric vehicle this will save CO2 emissions by approximately 15 tons annually. The test was performed in 2009. The results are unknown, but since the vehicle is not operational anymore it is assumed that the test results have not been satisfying

Source: http://www.duurzaam-ondernemen.nl/elektrische-vuilniswagen-van-gansewinkel-rijdt-op-afval/



Simon de Rijke

Jan-Willem Colstee

Research Group LEVV-LOGIC

Urban Technology | Faculty of Technology – Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences


Reference list

Hajer, M. & Dassen, T. (2014). Smart about cities. Rotterdam: Nai010 Publishers.

Gemeente Amsterdam. (2015). Afvalketen in Beeld, Grondstoffen uit Amsterdam. Retrieved from https://www.amsterdam.nl/publish/pages/747611/afvalketen_in_beeld_grondstoffen_uit_amsterdam_okt_2015.pdf

Hogeschool van Amsterdam. (2016). Amsterdamse container en grofvuilinzameling in beeld.

Hogeschool van Amsterdam. (2016). Stadslogistiek in beeld, De bevoorrading van goederen in de Oude Pijp in Amsterdam: kenmerken en kansen. Retrieved from http://greendealzes.connekt.nl/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/eindrapportagehva_stadslogistiekinbeeld.pdf

Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu. (2014). Landelijk afvalbeheerplan 2009-2021. Retrieved from http://www.lap2.nl/publish/library/207/sectorplannen_bijlage_6_lap2.pdf

Raad voor de leefomgeving en infrastructuur (Rli). (2013). Nederlandse Logistiek 2040, designed to last. Retrieved from http://www.rli.nl/publicaties/2013/advies/nederlandse-logistiek-2040-designed-to-last

Sutanto, M. & Bai, R. (2001). Solid waste management in Singapore. Proceedings of the third Asia-Pacific Conference on Sustainable Energy and Environmental Technologies (pp. 435-441). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd.

TNO. (2015). Amsterdam circulair, Een visie en routekaart voor de stad en regio. Retrieved from https://www.amsterdam.nl/publish/pages/750707/amsterdam_circulair-visie_en_routekaart.pdf

Transport en Logistiek Nederland (TLN). (z.d.). Schone logistiek voor de circulaire economie. Een visie als opmaat naar een green deal. Retrieved from https://www.tln.nl/netwerk/deelmarkt/afvalstoffentransport/PublishingImages/Paginas/speerpunten-deelmarkt/Slimme%20afvallogistiek%20versie%20TLN.pdf

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