Brussels is the capital of the EU, Belgium and Flanders but it’s also an independent region with 19 mayors …. a typical Belgian story. The region of Brussels has around 1.2 million citizens. The natives of Brussels are called ‘Brusseleirs‘.
There’s been an important change in the waste management policy: Brussels’s (region) citizens have to sort their kitchen waste since the 1st of May 2023; it’s an obligation. There are three options to deal with your kitchen waste:
- curb side collection: collected by the waste management agency ‘Brussels Propreté’;
- community compost: a compost heap in the park for instance ;
- individual composting: home composting (compost heap in your garden for instance)
Curb side collection
A communication campaign has been organised recently by ‘Brussels Propreté’, the ‘Brussels region’ agency responsible for waste management. Brussels’ residents received an official letter, an info graphic and an official orange bag to sort their kitchen waste for curb side collection. Here’s the infographic:
The bottom line, second image from the right (image with a bag) says: compostable and biodegradable packaging are forbidden.
The official communication says something like:
The orange bag is the easiest solution for sorting food waste for all Brussels residents who do not have access to individual or community compost. Taken out on the right day, the orange bag will be collected by Bruxelles-Propreté and its contents will be transformed into green energy or fertilizer. Like other garbage bags, the orange bag has its collection day and its specific rules of use. You can use a small free container to limit odors and prevent the bag from being torn by animals before collection.
Orange bags are on sale in most medium-sized and large grocery stores in the Brussels region. They are sold in rolls of 15 bags of 30 liters for a price of around 1 € 50 cents.
The official orange bags are not compostable, in fact they’re a bit thicker than the official waste bags for residual waste (waste intended for incineration). This is to avoid leakage because kitchen waste may be dripping.
Light Orange vs Dark Orange
You will see two bags on the following picture:
- The left bag is the official bag that you buy in the supermarkets;
- The right bag was sent to all Brussels’ citizens by the agency ‘Brussels Propreté’ accompanied by a letter on how to sort kitchen waste.
You will notice that the orange bags have a slightly different colour. How do they do it? Well, it’s a typical Belgian story. Ze Germans, Brits, Swiss, Japanese, Americans would call it a fiasco … The Brusseleirs (locals from Brussels) call it …. business as usual. Additionally, the bags didn’t feel the same … one was crispier than the other.
Even the Brussels agency responsible for waste management couldn’t get hold on an official bag…. a typical Belgian story to quote ze French.
Can be deposited in the curbside collection bags
Here’s a list of items that can be sorted in the orange bags:
- Meal leftovers (including leftover meat and fish)
- Fruit and vegetable peelings
- Coffee grounds and tea bags (paper only)
- Paper towels (used only to absorb leftover food)
- Paper tissues and napkins
- Expired foods (without their packaging)
Cannot be deposited in the curbside collection bags
Here’s a list of items that cannot be sorted in the orange bags:
- Bones, carcasses, bones
- Shells of eggs, walnuts, oysters, mussels…
- The kernels
- Garden waste => green bag
- Litter, even biodegradable
- wood ashes
- Compostable/biodegradable packaging
- Liquid food waste (sauces, oils, leftover soup, etc.)
What happens to the orange bags?
You have to place your orange bag in an orange container once a week; the evening before they’re collected. I went for a walk on a Tuesday morning at the Avenue Louise, Belgian’s most famous and prestigious avenue … the Belgian version of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo drive. Read carefully: Not the equivalent but the Belgian version. The kitchen waste is supposed to be collected on Thursday morning but it looks already like a filthy fiasco. Orange bags are in front of the zebra crossing mixed with the residual waste bags (white bags). The yellow bag is for paper and cardboard.
When I opened the orange container supposedly for the orange bags with kitchen waste: I saw plastic bottles, reusable bags, glass, plastic films, plastic cups … not much kitchen waste
I asked the drivers of the lorries who collect the orange containers for help or info … they didn’t reply. There were a bit rude and they looked as if they had been hired from a crime syndicat.
Energy & compost
The official storyline continues:
Once collected, your food waste is taken to a bio-methanization center. Thanks to the action of bacteria and fungi, they are transformed into bio-gas and then into electricity and heat. The remaining material is then composted for agriculture. Currently, 20 tonnes of food waste can cover a family’s electricity consumption for a year.
Brussels Propreté recommends how to organise your individual compost:
In your garden, your kitchen, your garage or on your balcony, composting at home is easy and practical. In just a few months you benefit from a free and 100% natural fertilizer. Want to get started ?
Can be deposited in your individual compost
- Fruit and vegetable peelings
- coffee grounds
- Non-pyramidal tea bags
- Vegetable garden waste
- Organic dead flowers and plants
- egg shells
- Shredded hardwoods (avoid softwoods)
- Sawdust without treatment
- Trimming leafless hedges
- Shells of walnuts, hazelnuts etc.
- Tissues, paper towels
- Cardboard, egg box BUT without color inks (contain heavy metals).
Do not deposit in your personal compost:
- Sauces, fats and oils
- Leftover cooked meals
- Animal waste: meat, fish
- Dairy products: cheese, yogurt, fresh cream
- Earth, sand, ash
- vacuum cleaner dust
- Synthetic materials
- Iron and metals
- cigarette butts
- Colorful newspapers, magazines
- Florist’s cut flowers
- Compostable packaging
Here again, the Brussels region doesn’t recommend to place your compostable plastics packaging and bags into the compost.
Although, the city is the capital of Europe, Brussels is mismanaged at all levels. Brussels has no lessons to give to any city.
I’ve asked the Brusseleirs how they felt about this ‘composting’ hype:
The Brusseleirs are not really enthusiastic about this new policy. They believe this ‘policy’ has been implemented to please the privileged EU public officials of the European Commission. Public officials of the European Commission are also commonly referred to as ‘green BOBOs’ by the Brusseleirs since the Green Deal has been voted.
One of the things that struck me was …. A Brusseleir told me that when he was younger, he passed with his father in front the the European Commission HQ (the Berlaymont building) and that his father told him …. Do you know what this building is? It’s a den of thieves.
Clearly not a success story. Instead of installing an obligation to compost your kitchen waste, why didn’t they start by cleaning all the litter in the city, because the streets of Brussels are really filthy … full of litter.