Waste collector services are urging residents to throw disposable hygienic gear like face masks and gloves in the standard refuse bags instead of the recycling blue bags.
“We find that disposable masks, gloves or handkerchiefs often end up with the [plastic, metal and drink cartons] waste, in the paper and cardboard bins or even on the street or in nature,” Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir told HLN.
In an appeal issued ahead of the reopening of shops on Monday, waste collecting companies and agencies in Flanders say that these materials were not meant to be recycled.
“Put this hygienic waste in your residual waste container or bag or leave it in the trash when you leave a store. The waste is then processed in safe conditions,” a joint-issued press release read.
In an online statement, the waste collection agency in Brussels also said that gloves and face masks should be thrown away in the white bags.
As Belgium prepared to begin a gradual lifting of lockdown imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic, disposable face masks were again allowed to be mass-distributed by supermarkets.
Since 4 May, the use of a face mask or mouth cover is mandatory in public transportation and highly recommended in public places in Belgium.
The waste collection companies also suggest the use of reusable fabric masks, which some municipal authorities have begun distributing among citizens, in order to prevent an exponential rise of non-recyclable waste.