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Turning Trash into Treasure: The Rise of Worm Hotels in Amsterdam

Upon moving to Amsterdam, I was surprised to find that, despite the city being a pioneer in green living, organic waste separation and collection is not the norm. This results in a staggering 97% of organic household waste, which could be turned into something valuable, being incinerated.ª

As a geographer, I was keen to find out why this is and what action is being taken. While investigating this, one solution—worm hotels—particularly stood out. This blog will introduce what they are and why they are necessary. 

So, what is being done about food waste?

Fortunately, the municipality is well aware of the environmental challenges that organic waste poses. Addressing its related issues is regarded as fundamental to achieving Amsterdam's commitment to becoming a fully circular city by 2050.ª As a result, waste reduction and more efficient treatment have featured heavily in recent policy proposals.ᵇ

Progress, however, is proving challenging. The logistics and economics of large-scale composting are problematic; the current centralised waste system means there are high collection and transportation costs.ª In addition, residents across the city, especially those living in high rises, are largely unaware of the importance of separating waste or are confused about what to separate, further delaying progress.

To mitigate these issues, the municipality is increasingly pushing for a more decentralised system that treats organic waste at the source.ª One unusual yet promising solution that has emerged is worm hotels.

What are worm hotels, and how do they work?

Worm hotels are small-scale, community-run composting bins.ᶜ There are approximately 200 dotted across Amsterdam, and many more are on the way. These bins help to prevent unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and retain the value of organic waste. After adding scraps to the bin, neighbours just need to wait a couple of months for the several hundred worms contained within the bins to transform their organic waste into nutrient-rich soil.

worm hotel foto by Martine de Vente

Image by Martine de Vente, retrieved from

Not only are the hotels environmentally beneficial, but they are also great for encouraging local engagement. Up to 30 households can participate in one bin, prompting neighbours to collaborate and fostering a greater sense of community—something that is especially lacking in high-rise flats.ªᶜ This also works to raise awareness about circular systems and food waste issues, which can result in the adoption of other sustainable habits.

Change takes time

At present, these worm hotels only tackle a small proportion of organic waste in the city. Nonetheless, they are a step in the right direction, and their popularity acts as an important message to the municipality that a more decentralised and circular waste disposal system is feasible.

You can get involved by searching for your nearest worm hotel on the municipality’s map.


ª Yan, X. (2022). Circular household organic waste treatment in the high-rise residential building. Delft: Delft University of Technology.

ᵇ Amsterdam, C. o. (2024, June 19). Policy: Food Strategy. Retrieved from Amsterdam Policy:

ᶜAndrews, B. (2023, May 16). Worm hotels in the Netherlands: an eco-friendly approach to community building. Retrieved from Dutch Review:


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