Local Heart, Global Soul

October 2, 2019

Thinning Out The Plastic…

Filed under: LIFE,PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Plastic has become a huge world issue of late, and for very good and very alarming reasons. The lastest UN environmental reports show that global warming is excellerating faster than ever before, from fires in the Brazilian rainforest to the abnormal amount of icemelt in Greenland, Mother Nature is doing her best to tell us to stop talking and start sitting up and taking notice.

Recycling is big in the Netherlands, (but could always be that tiny bit better)  after all this country doesn’t have a lot of space for landfill, so it pays to avoid the problem of where to put it by producing as little of it as possible.  I noticed whenever we visiting America, I am shocked that things like yoghurt post are make of seriously thick plastic.

I’d like to show how we already address the issue of using the least amount plastic as possible, and I wish that the world would pool all of it’s great ideas about reducing plastic: who knows how far we could decrease it if it were like a consumer driven competitive sport. Win for the consumer, win for the environment. In the first photograph we see a typical Dutch yoghurt pot, family size from our local supermarket. It’s empty and the pot has been washed out.  We see the product information and advertising on the outer paper wrapper, and the lid. First remove the lid…


(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The outside bit in colour is actually thick paper7cardboard, and there is a “tear here” spot at the top where to two ends of the paper join.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The paper then comes away, and when it does it becomes apparent that the carboard works in conjunction with the thin plastic liner inside to hold the product firmly and in a stable fashion whilst joghurt is on the shelves.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Off comes the cardboard / thick paper sleeve. The bottom is reenforced for strength. This part heads into our paper recycling bin…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are then left with the thinnest of plastic pots inside, it’s very flexible and almost transparent. I hope that with technology, this could become even thinner yet.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The thin plastic pot and lid head to plastic recycling. I wonder if we can find something new to replace plastic ? The world needs to pool resources so that we learn from our plastic mistakes and use the stuff only where and when it is really necessary. Any future plastic we use also needs to be 100% recyclable. Our children and grandchildren will rightly blame us if we do nothing, but will see that we took action if we can redeem this environmental disaster. (I was about to say “looming environmental disaster”, but let’s face reality, with mirco-plastic now found in fish and even in our drinking water, the plastic disaster is already here!)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

December 26, 2016

A Sight I Wish I Could Wish For Communities All Over The World…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Recycling has always been a big thing in The Netherlands.

For decades in every neighbourhood has sported large bins, usually in threes, one for paper, one for clear glass and one for coloured glass.

Many plastic bottles have a fee on them that can be reclaimed by delivering the empty bottle back at your local supermarket. There was always a “green bin” collection too,  for food scraps.

Then in recent years the recycling effort was ramped up several notches, with the addition of plastic recycling points: this time, plastic like cling film, grocery plastic packaging wrappings and the like.

Large household items like whitewares: fridges, washing machines etc have a special tax included in the new purchase price that covers the cost of dealing with disposal at the end of it, and there is a system where large items of household furniture can be taken away from off the street by your door  by the city council after you have made an appointment for a removal date.

Tradition states for this last one that the goods must be put onto the street the evening before, usually more than one item is put out at once and then one of two things happen (sometimes both) first: others who have not made an appointment add their large metal or wood furniture to the pile or second, other people spy something that they can make use of and take it away. I have to say that sometimes people throw away things in surprisingly good state so it’s a brilliant system and it’s always a topic of conversation if someone scores something especially good this way.

I’ve grown to love this system, and recycling in general so the next step in the “green” revolution was exciting too, even if it took a little bit of getting used to at first.  It used to be that our rubbish bags for things that can not currently be recycled were collected once per week from our door step. The last year or two has seen the springing up in every street or two, rows of two or three underground containers topped with smaller tops where the bags are inserted. Now you walk to one of these whenever your rubbish bag is full and drop it off into the container.

In the first weeks it felt strange not to be piling bags on the street on the set day, but the advantages quickly became apparent: now there was no chance for the seagulls to indulge their habit of tearing open the bags and scattering rubbish far and wide. In summer months bags didn’t sit starting to smell ripe on balconies waiting for rubbish day, and if you were due to go on holiday on a Tuesday and your collection day was always a Friday then there was not longer the hassle of asking neighbours to deal with it.

We quickly got use to this system and love the ease and convenience. Older people can take a small walk and dispose of rubbish every day if they wish, if you have a large family event you can deal with almost all aspects of the recycling  in one go. The “green bin” for household scraps is still collected on a set day each week, but seeing these little green boxes popping up not only in my city but also nation wide, is a sight that I wish I could wish for communities all over the world.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 11, 2010

IKEA is a four letter word…

Filed under: Blogging & Writing,The Hague — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

Fellow blogging friends the ” Interrobangs Anonomous”  is made up of four creative ladies who write about style,  fashion, life  etc. One thing we have in common is that they love second hand shops and second hand finds (Thrifting)  and their recycling ideals and ideas appeal to me very much indeed.

In fact, this recent post http://interrobangsanon.wordpress.com/category/diy/ by Chelsie , and the cabinet that they recycled and painted green, got me thinking so much that it has inspired this post.

I try not to be judgmental but I seriously think that our secondhand/antique/found/donated furniture just has so much more character and soul than the IKEA clones that are the furniture equivalent to bad face-lifts,  stretched and tight and kind of plastic looking (even if it isn’t plastic at all).

Ever seen anyone idly and absentmindedly stroking the wood on an IKEA piece of furniture, clearly adoring the grain and smoothness and feel of the wood under their fingertips?

Hmmm, me neither.

The pieces of furniture that I love most (owned, or coveted)  have been handcrafted, or  at least been designed by craftsmen…  not entrepreneurs and robots that stamp and punch pieces of the jigsaw that will be eventually slotted together with staple-guns or have shelves that are balanced on little plastic pieces that slot into any one of the tiny holes drilled up the side of the cabinet and which are assembled with a series of clicking sounds rather than the rhythmic tap of hammers as wood is eased into a position where it is destined to stay for the next 100 years.

Now try and think “IKEA” and think of any piece lasting 100 years…  No, I can’t see it either.

The “essence of nature” contained in many modern pieces of furniture has been whittled and pared down the bare minimum, the “wood”  component now only consists of  one entire millimeter of veneer on the outside surfaces and the sad pulped remnants of trees shredded and pressed on the inside.

This furniture  must surely weep if they are ever placed in a room next to an antique piece made of Oak or Mahogany…   … polished and of solid glowing wood to the core.

If trees had the possibilities of  souls and could become ghosts, how many unhappy ones would haunt our homes?

The only redeeming feature of pulp wood is that at least it recycles something from the spindly side branches of the tree, But I suppose that in the “old days” that stuff went to fuel the fire of the artisan that crafted wood and the warmth that it passed on to him was in turn recycled into the warmth of sanding tongue-and-grove joints, and drilling slots for wooden dowel pegs to support load-bearing joints, upon which would eventually rest the weight of people or possessions.

Do I have a personal vendetta against IKEA? Well no, actually …(Himself does, but that’s an entirely different story) For me at least, IKEA is only a representation of any Make  or Brand of furniture that is constructed in a manner or style that incorporates compressed wood fibred into their “planks” and where the backs of cupboards have been reduced to ultra thin replicas of wood that look more like thick cardboard (or might actually be thick cardboard in some cases).

I know we live in a society and age where we want things cheap, But do we ever ask ourselves just how cheap we want to go? or don’t we care? What happens to the talents and skills of handcrafting that are slowly being eaten away by the competition of ridiculously cheap imitations?

We live so much in a throw-a-way society, we are busy and want “ease” and “speed”, our supermarkets are increasingly being filled with “ready meals” and stuff that is pumped full of “E” numbers, colourants, flavournoids and stabilizers… we have the possibilities of filling ourselves daily with these if wish, but with what long term impact, not only for us but for our kids?

I see any type of IKEA style furniture as “ the ready-meals of furniture” … speed and ease  Yes…but what long term impact does the “short-cut” ideal have on us, our kids and our society?

Will our kids want to learn professions where Time and Patience, and slow hard labour are key ingredients in making the final product?  or will they only want to settle for the “instant” type of jobs where everything is pressure cooked, automated and the  final product is churned out in ever increasing speed?

If they only expect to live in an “instant” society,  and accept “ready-meal  manufactured  furniture” what hope is there for the craftsman and for antiques of the future? .. and our kids view on life?

March 17, 2010

16th Century building, 21st Century ideal, Emmaus Prinsegracht 36

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Here is the second and last part of my Emmaus posts.  As explained in my first post yesterday, there are two Emmaus’s in the Hague, the first (in it’s two separate buildings at the corners of the same block) already detailed and photographed on the Beeklaan.

Now I’d like to take you into the centre of town, to show you the other one.

The Prinsegracht  is a street of prime real-estate in the Hague. Some of the buildings are old, very old.  Parts of  Prinsegracht 36 date back to the 16th Century. Much of course has been added to, renovated and altered. Still, the building has a long history and a soul.

The Emmaus housed here is open only a few short hours every week, but it’s always thronged with people. Each room has it’s own  person who does the selling and every time I have dropped by, they are always the same people in the same rooms.

It’s friendly and informal. Prices are low and goods flow out like a steam… to be re-used and re-loved.

Since this building is bigger and I was lucky enough to get some photos of a few of the rooms during gaps in the human traffic. These are “quick” photos for this reason, so not my best photographic efforts. C’est la vie, it’s the thought that counts here.

On one visit I bought some old wooden skates, on another visit I wanted another pair (or several) and got to rummage in the box in the  cellar where they had been put into storage… the walls are plain rough brick as cellars are apt to be, but glimpses of the floor revealed between the boxes showed the telltale signs of  various ages, styles, thicknesses of floor tiles, in differing patterns, bricks and wood. Drink in the ages… . people come and go, this building goes on. I love buildings like this.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Back to the Emmaus website, some more interesting text from it that I’ve translated…

“We leven in een wereld waar de kansen en mogelijkheden ongelijk verdeeld zijn. Dit doet onrecht aan veel mensen en is een bron voor conflicten. We willen dit veranderen door met onderstaande uitgangspunten zelf aan de slag te gaan. Daarmee geven we inhoud en zin aan onze eigen leven. Zo bevorderen we vrede en gerechtigheid en hopen anderen te inspireren.”

“We live in a world where chances and possibilities are not distributed in equal measure to all. That does an injustice to many people and is a source of conflict. We want to change that on the basis of the principles below. And in doing so we give meaning to our own life. We stimulate peace and justice and hope to inspire others.”

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We voorzien door ons eigen werk in het levensonderhoud van de gemeenschap. Zo blijven we vrij en onafhankelijk.We werken in onze eigen kringloopbedrijven.We streven naar een eenvoudige manier van leven.
We kiezen er nadrukkelijk voor om ons in te zetten voor mensen aan de onderkant van de samenleving.
Overschotten geven we weg aan mensen of groepen die in armoede leven of aan andere organisaties die op hun manier werken aan bovenstaande uitgangspunten. Onze gemeenschappen staan open voor iedereen die deze overtuiging onderschrijft en actief mee wil werken de doelstellingen in praktijk te brengen.

We form communities where people work and live together, people who wish to change their situation of homelessness. We create our own work and therefore provide for the livelihoods of our community in this way we remain free and independent. We work in our own second hand/ recycling companies . We are striving after a simple way of life. We emphatically choose to support people who most vulnerable in society. Whatever is redundant we give away to people or groups who live in poverty or to other Organisations who work along the same principles as we do. Our communities are open to anyone who shares the above principles and who wishes to actively pursue the above objectives.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Himself sometimes comes out with some very philosophical gems,  He thought about this blog topic and said, “ So the people that are often thrown away or cast off, by society, take things that people throw away, and recycle them…. … and in doing so, recycle  and renew themselves”

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Taking ourselves and our stuff, ( not just the physical, tangible stuff but also the emotional, mental stuff)…  finding new uses, open to loving again and being being  open to being loved  in all forms anew throughout our lives…  a good enough ideal for me to live by too,

….How ’bout you?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 16, 2010

Emmaus, a kringloopwinkel with a difference… Beeklaan 315.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A few posts ago, on March 10th , I wrote about the main and more well known Dutch “kringloopwinkels”.

Well, to fully inform you I need to take you a step further into this subject and tell you about “Emmaus” and what they do.

First, you need to learn this new Dutch word, it’s  pronounced “em-mouse”, and they too are a type of Kringloopwinkel (second-hand/recycling shop).

There are only 30 of them in the Netherlands (compared with 220 of the other “kringloopwinkels”) and two Emmaus’s in The Hague (compared with 19 of the other kringloopwinkels in The Hague/Den Haag).

So ? Competition? well, kind of, but also not. Emmaus is also fulfills a very important role in Dutch society and are a very special business indeed.

Firstly it might be helpful to know that you can’t just have a “garage sale/yard sale” in The Netherlands.  You need a permit or a license from the City Council.  There is an exception to this rule only for one day per year: Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day on the 30th April) when the whole country goes flee market mad, and whole streets are filled with kids sitting on blankets selling toys etc.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yes we do have a Dutch “Ebay” and our own local version of Ebay called “Marktplaats”  but all in all you will find that in most areas of town Kringloopwinkels of one sort of the other are very well patronized.

So what’s the big difference with Emmaus?  Well, they are an organisation that helps in particular two types of people:  the first we call in Dutch ” daklozen” which literally means ” without a roof” (read: people who sleep on the street) and the second are the ” thuislozen” which literally means ” without a house” (read: people who sleep under a roof, but in temporary, transient situations and who have no fixed abode of their own).

Emmaus opening hours also differ massively from the more regular open 5-6 days a week Kringloops.

This Emmaus is open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 13.00 to 16.00.

The one  on the Beeklaan  is a bit of a puzzle.. its a shop of two halves,  the first half being on the corner of the Beeklaan and Daguerrestraat,  and consists of a lot of kitchen equipment, clothes,cloth, toys and books, and if you continue down the Beeklaan until you reach the other corner of the same block (corner Beeklaan and Galileistraat) then you find the other half of it, and there you will find more bric-a-brac, hardware and household items. Together the two are one.

I tried several times to take photographs inside these shops, but to be honest it was a waste of time, every time I tried the paces were so full of people looking for a bargain that you couldn’t get any decent shots of the merchandise.  To say it was a “squeeze” inside was an understatement !

There is so little space inside that lots of stuff is parked on the street for the few hours that they are open…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Here is part of the Emmaus  manifesto ( and the English translation I’ve made after it):

Emmaus, meer dan tweedehands alleen

U kent Emmaus misschien van de winkels en markten met tweedehands artikelen, maar onze organisatie is meer dan dat. In negen woonwerkgemeenschappen bieden we onderdak aan wie dat om welke reden dan ook nodig heeft, met name dak- en thuislozen. Daarnaast wonen er mensen die uit idealisme voor Emmaus hebben gekozen. De winkels voorzien in het onderhoud van deze groepen. Ook zijn er vrijwilligersgroepen, waar mensen een leuke en zinvolle dagbesteding kunnen vinden. Voor de meeste groepen geldt, dat ze van de omzetten projecten op het gebied van armoedebestrijding in en ver buiten Nederland kunnen steunen. We zetten ons graag in voor diegenen, die het minder hebben dan wij.

“Emmaus, more than just Second Hand

You may know Emmaus as the market for second-hand goods, but our organization is far more than that. In nine living and working communities we offer a roof to anyone who wishes or needs one, for whatever reason, especially to those without a home. Aside from this there are people who have also chosen to live here for idealistic reasons. The Emmaus shops provide a livelihood for these people as well as our groups of volunteers, and are places where people can spend their time in nice and useful manner. Most of these groups can support other projects in the field of fighting poverty with their turnover, not only in the Netherlands but also outside the Netherlands. We love to support those who less prosperous than we are.”

What an excellent idea… I can support that one too.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Emmaus Den Haag, Kringloopwinkel. / Beeklaan 315,  / 2562 AJ  Den Haag. / Tel: 070-3457477

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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