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Trash, recycling and sustainability in Belgium

Blue bags, white bags, black bags, yellow bags,… For an expat coming to Belgium, the waste and recycle system can sometimes be a bit confusing. We will explain the recycling system and give 6 concrete tips to avoid waste.

In Belgium, household waste must be sorted in order to be recycled. However, each region and commune has a different system of sorting trash and recycling. Some types of waste are collected at your home, while others can be disposed at container parks and collection points. When you move into your house or apartment, you should find a yearly paper calendar already there or you should receive it. The calendar tells you what kind of waste will be collected in your street on which day, as it differs throughout the city.


Did you know a fleece sweater can be made out of 27 plastic bottles and a bicycle out of 670 cans?

Following categories of waste have to be sorted: PMD, paper and cardboard, residual waste, glass, GFT and organic waste, small hazardous waste, old and expired medications, building waste and rubble, reusable textiles and discarded electrical and electronic appliances


PMD and residual waste for example, should be collected in standard bags available in your local supermarket. Their prices are set by law. Did you know that afterwards, for PMD, the three types of waste (plastic bottles and flasks, metal packaging and drink cartons) will be separated and recycled, so that out of 27 plastic bottles a fleece sweater can be made and from 670 cans a bicycle?


A large part of the household waste, on the other hand, consists of organic material such as vegetable kitchen waste, residues of vegetables and fruit, coffee grounds, cut flowers, leaves… This waste should be thrown in the green container. Chemical waste like frying oil, batteries, toxic products, paint can be brought to container parks.


For those internationals who already learned a few words of Dutch, Limburg.net, the waste intermunicipal company of Limburg, launches regularly magazines on their website https://www.limburg.net/media-publicaties with some more information, tips and tricks.


6 tips to avoid waste


1. Try to buy unpackaged goods

Visit the local market and buy fresh goods to avoid packaged goods. Bring your own pot or shopping bag and you will avoid a lot of paper and plastic. When visiting the supermarket, it is also possible to take your own cotton bags to carry vegetables and fruit.


2. Buy in ‘bulk’

Large packages mean less waste than a lot of small packages. No longer buying soft drinks in cans but opting for larger plastic bottles for example, reduces your amount of PMD waste.


3. Compost your kitchen and garden waste

Fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds… can all be composted. With a little patience, you may have compost that is very suitable to use in your garden and nourish the soil. On top of that, the organic matter will act as a sponge to absorb more water, meaning you might need less water to nourish plants, saving you both money and time.


4. Use a bar of soap instead of a liquid shower gel

Another simple tip is replacing a bottle of body wash or shampoo by a package of bar soap. It will not only reduce your amount of plastic waste, but bar soap is typically cheaper than the average bottle of shower gel and shampoo, so it’s a win-win.


5. Learn to repair instead of discarding items

Before you deem something destined for the trash, consider lengthening its lifecycle. Repairing items when necessary is much better than buying loads of cheap, disposable products.


6. Try to reduce your paper usage

Reducing paper usage can be done by for example printing double sided or by refusing advertising brochures and door-to-door paper. At your municipality, you can request a ‘no advertisement’ sticker for your letterbox.


Sources:

https://www.incovo.be/afvalophaling/afval-thuis-sorteren

https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/delaware/stories-in-delaware/delaware-eight-ways-to-reduce-waste/

https://awkwardduckling.nl/2014/11/tips-afval-verminderen/

https://www.expatica.com/be/living/household/waste-and-recycling-in-belgium-102650/

https://www.marthastewart.com/1540722/items-you-should-repair-instead-replace



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