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After shaky start, food waste collection increases in Brussels

15:11 03/06/2023

Brussels residents are slowly getting used to the new obligation, from 15 May, to put their food waste into orange bags, according to the capital’s waste management organisation Bruxelles Propreté.

The first week of the new system saw several hiccups. Notably a huge number of bags were left out on the street, due to people not taking into account the new collection days.

At the same time, 10 of Brussels' 19 communes, including Watermael-Boitsfort, Uccle and Auderghem, have seen the number of collections of the white (general waste) bag, reduce from twice to once a week.

But from 22 May, although Bruxelles Propreté said there were still no definitive figures, anecdotal evidence suggests that more food waste was collected in the capital.

For example, in the Bempt neighbourhood of Forest, 724kg of orange binbags were collected in the first week, going up to 1.6 tonnes a week later.

Bruxelles Propreté has already given out 161,000 orange bins to homes since 2016, including 55,964 just since this January.

However there are shortages not only of the bins, but also of the bags in supermarkets and shops. The company has ordered more bins in the last few weeks which will be freely available in recycling parks and shops.

Residents can also put their food waste in their own or communal compost areas.

In 2022, 9,238 tonnes of general (non-recyclable) waste were collected in the City of Brussels, a drop from 10,921 tonnes in 2019.

Brussels-City alderwoman Zoubida Jellab (Ecolo), responsible for green spaces, public cleanliness and animal welfare, said this 1,700-tonne reduction in waste showed better sorting efforts in the capital.

Meanwhile it is likely to be a marathon, not a sprint, on the road to optimal waste collections. People living in the capital also have to deal with the new obligation (since October 2021) to put more plastic waste, such as plastic films and yoghurt pots, into the blue bag for plastics, metal cans and beverage cartons (PMC waste). Bruxelles Propreté estimates that more than 8kg extra PMC per person per year can be recycled in this way.

It will also take time to get used to what is actually permitted in the orange bag. While tea and coffee bags and even kitchen paper are allowed, egg shells and liquid food such as soup are not.

Written by Liz Newmark