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Cut down on rubbish collections in Brussels, says audit

© Alain Maron

The Brussels waste management agency Bruxelles-Propreté (ABP) should cut down on the number of rubbish collections it delivers, in order to become more efficient, according to an audit carried out by business consultancy Berenschot.

The audit is one of three commissioned by Fadila Laanan (PS), the Brussels regional minister in charge of the sector in May last year, and its main focus is on employment.

The numbers employed by ABP have grown by 22% since 2014, or 526 full-time equivalents. But the auditors say that the number of people employed has more to do with the social function the agency considers it has, than with any consideration of efficiency.

As part of its audit, Berenschot looked at similar agencies elsewhere and found that the number of productive hours worked at ABP was lower than anywhere else.

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One of the reasons was what it called the ‘fini-fini’ philosophy, which allows rubbish collectors to finish their shift when their run is finished, as long as they have worked two-thirds of their paid hours.

That may help to explain why collectors always appear to be under enormous time pressure, with the consequences that follow – bags not collected, others that break and scatter garbage across the street.

Another difference between ABP and other agencies is the number of collections carried out. The white bag for general waste is picked up twice a week. Blue, yellow and orange bags for PMD, paper and compostable waste respectively are picked up weekly.

In other areas, paper and PMD are picked up every two weeks, and residual waste once a week.

The auditors come to two conclusions based on the above. End the system of fini-fini and pay employees for the time they actually work. And reduce the number of collections.

Neither of those ideas is likely to be popular with Alain Maron (Ecolo) the minister now in charge – let alone with the public or unions.

The latter have already pointed out that the audit was carried out in times of Covid, when the reduction in the amount of traffic on the roads was far less than normal, which will have had an effect on the work of collectors. A collection run that went smoothly and quickly in Covid times would take much longer in normal circumstances.

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