Category 18 April 2019

Prevention and management of household waste in Flanders, Belgium

The Flemish region of Flanders, Belgium has become the vanguard of waste management in Europe. It boasts the highest waste diversion rate in Europe as almost three-fourths of the residential waste produced in the region is reused, recycled, or composted. Additionally, the region has successfully managed to stabilise waste generation. 

The challenge

Reducing the amount of waste ending up in the landfill is a key to a sustainable waste management. In Flanders a holistic approach to waste management has been adopted, which attempts, by way of providing incentives for businesses, recommendations for local authorities, agreements with specific target groups, and legal obligations, to make consumers and businesses aware of waste prevention issues and oblige them to act.

The region has been very successful in finding ways to ensure waste reduction. In Flanders the municipalities are responsible for the collection and treatment of household waste and the Flanders waste management plan has the clear goal of preventing the creation of as much waste as possible.

The measure

Flanders has taken several steps to prevent the production of waste. For example they provide support to business by providing subsidies to re-use. This includes shops which encourage reselling furniture, electronics, toys, clothes, etc.. Home composting is supported and to date 25% of people have their own composting unit at home. Privately owned composting units are more common in rural areas but in urban environments people are encouraged to share neighborhood composting units.

There is a special focus on selective collection schemes that support separating at the source. Separate collection is a primary way to prevent waste ending up in landfill. Collection units for various types of waste are established on streets so that people can separate waste outside of their homes.

Municipal recycling yards are places where less common types of waste can be taken for free. In the Flanders region there are 337 container parks where a wide range of waste streams are separately collected, including; construction and demolition waste, cooking oils, batteries and accumulators, polystyrene, WEEE, paper and cardboard, PE foils, and metals, to mention just a few.

Producer responsibility and the “polluter pays” principles are the backbone of the system. Producers are financially responsible for the collection and treatment of their products once they have become waste so collection via retailers makes it possible to reuse materials such as electronic waste, batteries and accumulators, ink-cartridges, pharmaceuticals and car tires. The “polluter pays” principle is implemented so that household waste charge is based on volume or weight, and the tarifs are differentiated so that  mixed household waste is more expensive to discard than selectively collected waste.

All of these factors require communication campaigns informing citizens and raising consumer awareness. The local authorities who are active and launch waste prevention initiatives are given financial support.

Lessons learnt

Based on the experiences in building the system few learnings can be specified:

Work on all levels of the waste hierarchySource separation is of crucial importanceawareness raising campaignsselective collection schemes“polluter pays” principleLimit residual waste treatment capacity to the minimumMake landfilling expensive and ban it for as many types of waste as possible

Further deployment

The aim is to limit residual household waste to 150 kg per inhabitant per year and that by 2015 75% of the household waste was collected selectively for the purpose of re-use and recycling. The estimated level in GML is 8 for this case.

Links:More detailed description of the case