Promoting the recycling of materials, reducing waste

NS uses a lot of materials in trains, workshops, stations and offices. Our goal is to use these materials economically and give them a second life when we part with them. For trains and public transport bicycles, for example, we look whether they can continue a little longer after an overhaul. When we dispose of products or parts, we look at whether it is possible to use them somewhere else. If not, we ensure the materials are recycled. Our ambition is for NS to have an entirely closed cycle. We aim to achieve this for example by:

  • reducing the use of materials

  • putting circular-economy procurement into practice when purchasing materials

  • investigating service life extension

  • separating waste: separating what we have to at the source and what we can after use

  • finding a market for discarded materials

  • organising process ownership (waste managers)

  • collaborating with key stakeholders such as suppliers and ProRail

‘Circularity’ of our trains

The materials in the NS trains need replacement after about 20 years. After upgrades, the same train can go back into service again for another 20 years or so. NS is now upgrading the VIRM type double-decker trains. We reused 86% of the ‘old’ train, including the body shell, doors, screens, stairs, etc. The remaining components were collected and separated out as much as possible for recycling: rubber fittings around the windows are used for rubber play tiles, the side walls and luggage racks for dyke/shoreline reinforcement.
A total of over 97% of the materials in the train are given a new lease of life this way. We are still looking for an application for the remaining 3%, including floors, ceilings and upholstery parts. For example, we are investigating whether it is possible to make desks for our offices from the floor boards.
Trains are taken out of service after about 40 years. We then first try to sell the entire train. If this is not possible, we disassemble the valuable train parts for reuse in other trains and for the TechniekFabriek (‘technology factory’), the training establishment for NS technicians. We pass on some valuable components to charity. In 2018, we reused 64,000 kilograms of material. We then proceed to closed-cycle demolition of the train where as many of the materials as possible are converted to new valuable raw materials, for example the fluorescent lighting, rubber fittings around the windows and metals. We incorporate the lessons and experiences from upgrading and demolition in closed-cycle specifications for the procurement of new trains.

Waste reduction

In addition to the scrap trains NS had around 18 million kilograms of waste in 2018 (around 18 million kilograms in 2017). NS encourages waste reduction by asking passengers to leave their newspapers in the luggage rack after reading them. If multiple people use the same newspaper, the total number of copies could be reduced. Since October 2018, passengers get a 25 cent discount on hot drinks at 200 shops at the station if they bring their own reusable beaker. In 2018, NS started placing water taps at stations which they can use to fill their own bottles. This reduces plastic waste.

Waste recycling

Staff at our workshops were able to separate 81% of the waste in 2018 (81% in 2017). 4% of our waste is removed as hazardous waste annually. 32% of our waste from stations and trains was separated before collection (25% in 2017). Passengers can separate waste paper at 15 stations and in all trains. Our retail staff separates paper and cardboard at 100 stations. At seven stations they also separate out organic waste and food remains for bio-fermentation. Part of our waste was separated out at a post-separation plant.
In total in 2018, 45% of waste was separated in the offices, workshops, stations and trains and offered for recycling (42% in 2017). Ultimately our waste processing companies managed to recycle 44%, and 56% was incinerated for energy production. A very small fraction of our waste (0.2%) has to be dumped in landfills.