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Focus: proportion and management of the waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling

More than 137,000 tonnes of household waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling were collected (all facilities combined, excluding construction waste and cleaning sludge) in 2014. The proportion of household waste prepared with the aim of reuse or recycling amounts to 40%.

The evolution of sorted waste collections shows that some collections have "matured" (there is a stabilising of the amounts collected over the long term, after significant increases, and a low occurrence rate in residual waste). This is the case for paper/cardboard waste, glass, garden waste, and to a lesser degree, PMD waste. There is room for improvement for these last categories, both in terms of quantity and quality. The selective sorting of bio-waste (kitchen waste, currently not collected separately at the regional level) represents the main potential for improvement in the coming years, and the biggest quantitative potential present in residual waste. The other main potential for improvement concerns bulky waste.

A brief reminder…

The BCR produces between 1.5 and 2 million tonnes of waste per year. Bruxelles Propreté collects around 480,000 tonnes of household and assimilated waste, which equates to around ¼ of the total tonnage (see the focus on the tonnages of household and assimilated waste).

The legal context and international objectives for reuse and recycling

The Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC of 19 November 2008 imposes the observance of a waste hierarchy which gives priority to prevention, so as to guide Member States towards increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, water and energy. Within this waste hierarchy, which was included in the Brussels Ordinance of 14 June 2012 on waste, the preparation of waste for reuse and recycling occupies the second and third places respectively. In these two cases, it is generally required that waste is sorted at the source, and then collected separately. One of the advantages of reuse and recycling facilities lies in the fact that recycled raw materials often have a much smaller environmental impact than primary raw materials. In order to develop these reuse and recycling facilities, 2 conditions need to be met: households and businesses need to sort their waste as much as they can, and as effectively as they can, and the necessary resources need to be provided to the public waste managers concerned, to develop adequate collection and processing infrastructure.

Furthermore, it can be noted that Europe has developed specific legislation for packaging and packaging waste, given their short life cycle and significant impact on the environment, along with specific objectives in terms of recycling and reuse. Since its entry into force on 31 December 1994, the directive 94/62/EC has been modified on several occasions. The monitoring and evaluation of household and industrial packaging waste is provided at the national level by the Interregional Packaging Commission (IPC), which is a joint structure created following a cooperation agreement between the Regions. This Commission is tasked with inspecting businesses which place packaging on the Belgian market, as well as accredited bodies FOST Plus and Val-I-Pac. The packaging concerned is household PMD, paper/cardboard waste and glass (assimilated waste for Val-I-Pac). Bruxelles Propreté is the main operator of these collections, which it organises on a door to door basis, and of public drop-off facilities (recycling parks, bottle banks).

The ordinance of 14 June 2012 on waste anticipates (in article 22) that by 2020, 50% of "municipal" waste must be prepared with the aim of reuse or recycling; this "municipal" waste is the waste   for which   the   collection   falls   within   the competence  of the   administrative,  regional,  and municipal  authorities which encompass household waste and assimilated waste [definition taken from BISA, 2014].

In the context of a decision taken by the CCIEP (Coordination Committee for International Environmental Policy), the Regions chose to exclusively apply the European obligations on household waste (see decision of the European Commission of 18 November 2011).

This is explained in particular by the lack of data on assimilated waste collected by the private sector, which means that we cannot accurately know the situation for this category of waste. The most reliable data are those pertaining to household waste.
For the BCR, household waste is the fruit of collections made by different actors, the main one being Bruxelles Propreté, and supplemented by municipalities, social economy businesses, neighbourhood composts, and the systems put in place for take-back obligations (cfr. article 41, 3° of the ordinance of 14 June 2012 and the focus on tonnages of household and assimilated waste). This multi-actor approach makes it possible to highlight the comprehensive solutions offered to the community by complementary actors.

Sorting obligations in the Brussels Region

Between 1 January 2010 and February 2013, only households were obliged to sort household waste and take part in separated collections for the following elements: paper/carton waste, PMD, garden waste, glass. This obligation did not apply to SMEs, shopkeepers or self-employed people, nor to municipalities, administrations, schools, associations and suchlike. Their waste, which is comparable to household waste in terms of its composition, was often collected at the same time as the latter, and mixed together with it. However, other professionals paid for a private collector or Bruxelles Propreté to collect their waste.

The Brussels ordinance of 14 June 2012 on waste extended the obligation to sort household waste and the obligatory participation in separated collections to any producer of non-hazardous waste (article 19). This obligation has been in force since February 2013 for paper and cardboard waste, and since February 2014 for PMD packaging waste, glass (which is free is deposited at bottle banks), and garden waste. By virtue of the implementing decree of 21 June 2012, professionals must be able to show proof that they have concluded a contract for the collection of their waste, either with the public operator (Bruxelles Propreté Pro), or with a registered private collector (Van Gansewinkel, Sita, etc.). As such, the bags and containers used for this purpose must allow the identification of the waste collector.

Collection and recovery of sorted household waste

Separated collections organised door to door by Bruxelles Propreté (at houses) and via public drop-off at collection points (recycling parks, bottle banks, garden waste for the city centre, etc.) are organised in the Region for:

  • unsoiled paper and cardboard (collection in yellow bags and yellow containers);
  • PMD packaging waste/resources, in other words plastic bottles and containers, metallic packaging and drinks cartons (collection in blue bags and blue containers).

It should be noted that the sorting of PMD is more complicated and has less effective results due to the complexity of instructions: some packaging waste is accepted while others are not (plastic tubs, plastic film, hard plastics, etc.).
Tests for enlarging and simplifying the range of PMD packaging waste accepted are currently ongoing in Belgium;

  • garden waste/resources (collection in green bags, and bundles of branches and Christmas trees);
  • hollow glass (packaging), in other words bottles, jars and other transparent glass containers, for which the collection has been done exclusively via bottle banks since 2009 (there are more than 1000 bottle banks);
  • wood, metal, tyres, polystyrene, bulky waste, hard plastics, flat glass, etc., are collected at recycling parks and via house collections;
  • household chemical waste recovered at various Brussels collection points;
  • bio-waste/resources.

As previously explained, separated collections are also organised by other actors:

  • waste/resources collected by the social economy (waste from electric or electronic equipment or WEEE, textiles, furnishings, etc.)
  • waste/resources collected by municipalities via municipal recycling parks,
  • neighbourhood composts,
  • the take-back obligation systems (Récupel, RecyTyre, Bebat, etc.).

Garden waste is collected from houses everywhere, once a week; only around 50,000 inhabitants in the city centre do not benefit from this service.  This waste is transformed into compost by Bruxelles Compost, a subsidiary of Bruxelles Propreté (which holds 60% of the shares, with the remainder held by SA Indaver). The processing is mainly carried out at the composting centre situated on the Bempt site (Avenue de la Deuxième Armée Britannique 274, Forest), and the rest is transported to Grimbergen, at Indaver.
Preparation, with the aim of recycling, of paper and cardboard waste and PMD packaging waste collected by Bruxelles Propreté, is carried out at Recyclis. This is a 100% public subsidiary of Bruxelles Propreté, which was created following the merger of the former Bruxelles Papier and SA Bruxelles Recyclage. Some private collectors also come and deposit assimilated paper/cardboard waste at Recyclis, whose installations (which have been modernised and equipped with optical sorting) have a processing capacity of 80,000 tonnes of paper/cardboard (20,000 tonnes for PMD).

Until December 2012, the yellow and blue bags were collected every week at the same time, and then transported to the regional sorting centre in special semi-divided trucks. The final separation between yellow and blue elements was carried out "manually" at the sorting centre site. When the sorting lines of the installation were renovated in 2012, a change to the yellow and blue bags was inevitable: these needed to arrive at the sorting centre in perfectly separated (homogenous) flows. This is why, since January 2013, the separated collections of paper and cardboard on the one hand, and PMD packaging waste on the other, have been carried out in single flow, alternating once every 15 days. For the wheeled containers in apartment blocks, collection is still organised once a week.

Although the alternate collections in single flow have generated a few difficulties (for reference, in 2014, 150,000 stickers were stuck to bags which were left out outside of the planned days and times), they have also made it possible to ensure better quality of the compressed bales of paper/cardboard and PMD, which has reduced the cost of sorting [annual reports of Bruxelles Propreté]. The processing and subsequent transport of these bales is carried out outside of the Region. To simplify the management of waste by inhabitants and in order to reduce concerns, while at the same time maintaining the advantages of the single flow, the Region decided to implement a weekly collection of yellow and blue bags.
The "be-organic" pilot programme, organised by Bruxelles Propreté, has been ongoing since September 2013 in some municipalities. Initially, only Etterbeek and Evere were involved. Since April 2016, 8 municipalities have also had bio-waste collection cover (Etterbeek, Evere, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Auderghem, Forest, Saint-Gilles, Schaerbeek and Saint-Josse). The wider application of bio-waste collections throughout the 19 municipalities was decided on by the Brussels Government, and will be implemented for January 2017 by the latest. This project relates to the separate collection of organic (food) waste from households and professionals on a voluntary basis, waste material flow referred to as 'bio-waste' in the waste ordinance. This waste (including waste from certain schools and horeca establishments) is processed at a biomethanisation plant outside the Region.

Proportions of household waste prepared with the aim of reuse or recycling

The proportion of household waste prepared with the aim of reuse or recycling is the ratio between:

1. all of the household waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling:  waste collected separately by Bruxelles Propreté door to door and via public drop-off points (bottle banks, recycling parks, etc.), waste collected by municipalities (in municipal recycling parks), waste from the social economy (WEEE, textiles, bulky waste, etc.), waste collected by local associations (neighbourhood composts) and via the take-back obligation system (Récupel, Bebat, Valorfrit, etc.), and
2. all household waste (see the focus on the tonnages of household and assimilated waste), including residual household waste.

Regarding collections of waste prepared with the aim of reuse or recycling carried out by Bruxelles Propreté, the long-term trend is growing significantly (which is logical given the obligation to sort waste and the collection facilities): in 20 years, the tonnages of waste/resources collected separately has increased from around 34,000 tonnes to nearly 139,000 tonnes.

Evolution of the tonnages of household and assimilated waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling collected by Bruxelles Propreté (all collections combined)
Source: Bruxelles Propreté, 2015

However since 2012, the tonnages collected appear to have stabilised. This is mainly explained by the fact that the major historical separated collections (collections of paper/cardboard, PMD, glass and garden waste) has matured. For PMD, as previously indicated, there is potential room for improvement, particularly by improving waste sorting by households, but given the nature of this type of waste, the tonnages would not fundamentally alter the total. In contrast, the potential room for improvement is larger for collections of bio-waste (in particular kitchen waste). These represent the main potential for improvement in the coming years and the largest quantitative potential in residual waste. The other main potential for improvement concerns bulky waste (in the broad sense: waste which is not collected in a bag).

The recent evolution of tonnages collected for the main waste fractions of paper/cardboard, PMD, glass and garden waste is illustrated in the chart below.

Evolution of the tonnages of household and assimilated waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling collected by Bruxelles Propreté, per category
Source: Bruxelles Propreté, 2015

It is useful to note that the observed evolution of putrescible waste integrates the collections for garden waste and bio-waste, and -given their respective shares- does not reveal the gradual evolution of organic tonnages which the gradual enlargement of the pilot project makes possible.

The two categories of waste/resources which have recently experienced the most significant evolutions are "bulky" waste and paper/cardboard.

A clear decrease in the flow of paper collected as household and assimilated waste has been observed, primarily between 2012 and 2013, which -given the digitalisation of the press and communication- is in line with expectations. The evaluation of the fourth waste plan lingers over it. The decrease in the production of paper waste can be seen both in the analysis of yellow bags (in which fewer newspapers and magazines are found) and in the composition of residual waste (which contains fewer free newspapers and advertising, and less office paper). However, the quantity of cardboard has remained stable.

The detailed data established by Bruxelles Propreté for the collections of paper/cardboard makes it possible to show that household collections (both door to door and with containers) follow a downward trend. In contrast, the regional recycling parks are experiencing an increase in collected quantities (and to a lesser degree, so-called commercial collections). However the tonnages are too low (less than 4% of household tonnages) to introduce a new element to the general trend.

To explain the trends observed for collections of waste prepared with the aim of reuse or recycling carried out by Bruxelles Propreté, various explanations can be put forward:

  • The number of letterboxes with a 'STOP pub' sticker (No advertising) has gradually increased since 2007 [Dedicated Research, Nov. 2010]; in December 2014, according to the estimates of the Post Office, an average of 23.5% of letterboxes had this sticker (however this figure varies considerably from one municipality to another).  Behavioural changes induced in particular by actions targeting prevention have thus contributed to a reduction in the quantity of paper waste produced;
  • In the 2014 annual report (p. 25-28) of the Interregional Packaging Commission (IPC), it is stated that for the period 2010-2013, the total weight of domestic packaging placed on the market stagnated, and even decreased slightly, and that the share of re-usable packaging decreased in the same total. Assuming that the behaviour of households in terms of sorting has not changed, this evolution of re-usable domestic packaging would automatically result in a decrease in the weight of sorted domestic packaging waste.
  • It is apparent from surveys conducted in the context of the "Waste barometer of the Brussels Region" that a growing number of consumers admit to trying to avoid over-packaged products, so as not to end up with large quantities of packaging. Based on these surveys, Brussels Environment, in the evaluation of the 4th waste plan, considered that waste prevention was increasing, and consequently, there was less glass packaging (the selective flow with the largest weight) and also less PMD packaging.
  • On the other hand, the annual analyses of bin bags (studies conducted by Bruxelles Propreté) show that blue bags contain less and less incorrect packaging: in 2009 and 2010, the conformity percentage of blue bags was 75%, versus 85% in 2013. It is possible therefore that the weight of blue bags has decreased because they contain less incorrect waste.

Since waste collected door to door includes household waste and assimilated waste (see above), the Region has set up an analysis (in collaboration with the ULB) of deposits which makes it possible to distinguish between their respective share among the waste collected by Bruxelles Propreté.

As such, according to the available estimates, the share of assimilated waste in the total volume of waste is somewhat variable (between years) for the yellow and blue bags, but is estimated respectively at 21 and 5% on average (according to Bruxelles Propreté, in a communication from 2015).

The waste collected by Bruxelles Propreté at other facilities (container parks, bulky waste, etc.) is waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling.

So, according to the data provided by Bruxelles Propreté, for 2014, the quantity of household waste prepared with the aim of reuse or recycling and collected by Bruxelles-Propreté amounted to nearly 122,000 tonnes (all collections combined, out of total of 336,000 tonnes of household waste collected by Bruxelles Propreté, see the focus on the tonnages of household and assimilated waste; or 112,000 tonnes excluding construction waste and cleaning sludge).

The waste collected by municipalities, neighbourhood composts, the social economy and those responsible for the take-back obligation is also waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling.  For 2014, it was estimated to be more than 27,000 tonnes (see the focus on the tonnages of household and assimilated waste), or 25,000 tonnes excluding construction waste and cleaning sludge.

More than 137,000 tonnes of household waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling were therefore collected (all facilities combined, excluding construction waste and cleaning sludge) in 2014.

Since the quantity of household waste collected in the Brussels Region was estimated to be nearly 345,000 tonnes in 2014 (still excluding construction waste and cleaning sludge), the proportion of household waste prepared with the aim of reuse and recycling therefore amounted to 40%.


The approaching 2020 deadline for the objectives pertaining to the reuse and recycling of household waste [50% of "municipal" household waste prepared with the aim of reuse or recycling] obliges to focus on this challenge now.  However, the overall challenge in terms of waste management warrants that the assimilated waste produced by professionals and collected by operators other than Bruxelles Propreté is included, along with household waste, in the objectives pertaining to reuse and recycling, and to the circular economy.

Logically, we can presume that the gradual amendments to legislation -and consequently to collections and infrastructure- have brought about changes in the quantity, composition and sorting residues of the waste that Bruxelles Propreté collects door to door. To extend and reinforce improvements in the management of household waste in the Brussels Region, efforts now need to focus on the collections of bio-waste, collections of bulky waste and the orientation of waste in favour of a circular economy.

In 2015, important changes were announced, which will be significant in terms of data capture: the extension of the number of regional container parks (which the 6th State Reform made possible), the continuation of campaigns for mobile container parks, the extension of separated collections of bio-waste, and the consolidation of data on the collection of waste.

Datum van de update: 06/08/2021


State of the Environment’s sheet(s)

Door-to-door collected waste (edition 2011-2012)

Other publications from Brussels Environment

Report concerning the evaluation of the 4th "prevention and management of waste" plan, april 2015, 96 pages without annexes (internal report, in French only)

Study(ies) and report(s)

Various authors and date. “Waste barometer of the Brussels Region”, edition 2009, 2012 and 2015. Surveys performed on behalf of Brussels Environment (internal reports)

BISA, april 2014. « Environnement et Energie - Méthodologie » 39 pp. (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

Commission decision of  18  November  2011 establishing   rules   and   calculation   methods   for   verifying   compliance   with   the   targets   set   in Article  11(2)  of  Directive  2008/98/EC  of  the  European  Parliament  and  of  the  Council , 6 pp.

COMMISSION INTERRÉGIONALE DE L’EMBALLAGE, june 2015. « Activity Report 2014  », 32 pp.

DEDICATED RESEARCH, nov 2010. "Etude sur l’évaluation du succès de l’autocollant «Stop Pub» (Study relative to the evaluaiton of the success of the "Stop pub" sticker)", 29 pp. (.ppt) (internal rapport)

ECORES sprl, ICEDD, BATir (ULB), july 2015. « Métabolisme de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale: identification des flux, acteurs et activités économiques sur le territoire et pistes de réflexion pour l’optimisation des ressources  ». Study performed on behalf of Brussels Environment, 305 pp. (in French only) (.pdf)

BRUXELLES PROPRETÉ. Annual reports, various years  (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)

Plan(s) and programme(s)

"Quatrième plan de prévention et de gestion des déchets en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale" (4th "prevention and management of waste" plan), 11 march 2010 (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)