Brussels Green Initiatives - Ready to Recycle?

Article published on June 22, 2008
community published
Article published on June 22, 2008
We are all familiar with the collection of bin bags we need in every Brussels household; the white, yellow and blue one! But who is fully aware of what actually has to go in which one? For instance what to do with an empty yoghurt cup or with the “plastic” piece that comes with some meat?
Seems pretty plastic to me, but yet the blue bag is not where it belongs as in most cases these plastics are not recyclable.

Recent study showed that especially in the Brussels region people don’t know how to sort their garbage. Apparently 40% of the contents of the Brussels’ blue bags do not belong there (while in Flanders this is only 15%). Nevertheless, Belgium as a whole remains one the world’s best recycling countries with around 80% of the garbage being reused. But why does Brussels score that bad in comparison with the rest of the country? Would this be because of the relatively large amount of foreigners who come from countries with other recycling targets? These people may not be familiar with the Brussels (Belgian) standards.

Sorting garbage in Brussels is not mandatory, but actually a voluntary act. In fact the authorities cannot do anything if you put plastic bottles in the white bag, or even when you put glass bottles in the white bags. Moreover, according to the company in charge of the recycling, there is far too less control on what is actually in the bag. While bad sorting used to be the case in Flanders, better and more enforcement resulted in better recycling. Nevertheless, it seems that the Brussels’ authorities prefer that garbage does not stay on the streets, but even the badly sorted bags should be taken away.

It has been put forward to make the white bag (for the non-recyclable waste) more expensive in comparison with the blue bags to promote better recycling. However, the Brussels’ socialist party does not want to support that.

Nevertheless, the Brussels’ government did declare that as of 1 January 2009 the use of the blue bag will become compulsory. If this is enough to stimulate good division of garbage remains the question. The company in charge of recycling claims that people will only start recycling if there is a clear financial impact; making the white bags considerably more expensive. But as said before, this will not be introduced for the time being.

By the mandatory use of blue bags the Brussels Region will be in line with new EU legislation. Coincidentally, the European Parliament adopted this week (second reading) the revised EU Waste Directive which includes the new mandatory recycling targets for all EU countries. The text adopted by Parliament was also approved by Council (Member States) which did not support the initiative of the Parliament to also introduce targets for waste prevention, but could agree on the targets for re-use and recycling. So, escape is not possible anymore. Sorting will become mandatory in Brussels based on local regulations and EU legislation; so get ready to recycle!

Roel Hoenders