From grease trap to waterless urinal

Sustainability is not self-evident. Building manager Theo de Laat of the Melkweg Foundation knows all about this. Nevertheless, the organization manages to keep its ecological footprint to a minimum.


Theo de Laat has been the building manager at Stichting Melkweg since time immemorial. Since the early 1970s, a whole range of artists launched their careers here behind the Leidseplein in Amsterdam. The well-known culture house receives more than half a million visitors every year.

The Melkweg has a total surface area of ​​5,400 m2, of which 3,500 m2 is public space. This place attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year. The main hall has a capacity of 1500 people. The “old hall” can accommodate 700 visitors, and 250 people can enter the theater hall, the UP hall, on the first floor. If this is not enough, there is another 90-seat cinema.

For a snack before or after a performance, there is also Restaurant-Cafe Milk (what’s in a name?) With 50 seats and a full menu. There is also the exhibition space next to the restaurant as the icing on top of the the versatile cake.

Behind the scenes, Theo plays an important role in the ins and outs of the organization. He knows the nooks and crannies of the building like no other. And he knows what transformation it has undergone since the start of the culture house in the 1970s, especially in the field of sustainability.

“As an organization, we must report today on our gas consumption, on how we deal with waste or what we do with waste water, and we are inspected every so often by the fire brigade and Waternet. But our grease trap? It was the first time someone asked you about it!”

Our grease trap? It was the first time someone asked about it!

Waterloze urinoirs

More conscious about grease

The initiatives taken by the Melkweg Foundation to limit their ecological footprint are impressive. Not only in terms of equipment and infrastructure, but also through the behavior and mentality of the staff. Everyone in the organization pulls advocates more sustainability, without sacrificing the experience of the visitor.

Banning single use plastics is a good start, but being sustainable also means that you incorporate this into your daily habits. “We always wipe used cooking pots and pans with dry paper before washing them, so that no fat ends up in the sink. Obviously, right?”

From burlap bag to digital platform

“We have been separating fat since the 1980s,” says Theo. “We had to put that fat in a burlap bag every month, and then squeeze it. A very dirty job. Then came the grease pit, which is checked twice a year and is maintained and emptied monthly. Via these matters are now automatically kept on the online portal of Waternet. ”

Rotie is invariably mentioned on the calendar every first Monday of the month. That is convenient, because then there is usually no day program. “When the grease trap is emptied, a penetrating odor comes up, and of course you don’t want that when you have visitors,” he continues. On average, 2000 liters are pumped from the grease trap every month. At the same time, the frying fat from the kitchen is collected.

“In addition to an underground grease trap, we also have a separate grate that works as a sieve for dirt and other junk such as straws, cups and cigarette butts. The water flows through the grease trap to the sewer. ”

The well and grates are cleaned every day by the maintenance team. “On an annual basis, that is again a large, full container with waste that does not end up in our grease trap or in the sewer. We didn’t even have the grid installed by a company, we just made it ourselves. ”

On an annual basis, that is again a large, full container with waste that does not end up in our grease trap or in the sewer.

Less electricity consumption

“We use about 600,000 kWh of electricity per year,” says Theo. Most lighting is already LED, and currently the theater lamps are being replaced. Our consumption is optimized by a special device that regulates the voltage in such a way that we no longer have peak consumption, as often happens during concerts. The peaks are removed and so we do not take more than necessary from the electricity grid. ” This translates into 15% less electricity consumption on an annual basis. ”

Loos without water

The Melkweg Foundation also achieved significant savings in water consumption by using waterless urinals. That water consumption, its cost and the environmental impact for urinal flushing should not be underestimated. With special techniques and a good dose of physics, waterless urinals do not require any water flushing. “We can easily save 1.4 million liters of clean drinking water. That is very unique. And we were the first in Amsterdam. ”

And what about maintenance? “Maintenance is also more sustainable than the water urinal,” he continues. “We use biodegradable cleaning products. Urinary stones are only removed once a year in the discharge pipes, previously it was three times a year. ”

Collaboration among industry fellows

“The building managers of all cultural buildings here in Amsterdam come together every 2 or 3 months,” concludes Theo. “Then we think about how we deal with waste in a better way, how we can save more energy … Bottom line: we exchange knowledge and give each other tips to work even better and more efficiently.”

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