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Eighty per cent of Brussels’ shop owners flout bin laws

Brussels’ streets are getting dirtier – and one reason is that shop owners are not taking out the required waste contracts with the capital’s organisation responsible for its cleaning and maintenance, Brussels Proprété. Last year, out of more than 600 businesses controlled, four in five had not signed up with Brussels Proprété to use the special fuchsia-coloured bags provided to dispose of non-sorted waste. But even after a first warning, only half of that 80% came into line. Worse, Brussels Environment, responsible for environment and energy management of the Brussels-Capital Region, only meted out 16 fines last year.

Socialist MP for Brussels, Jef Van Damme, condemned this as “derisory”, telling Belgian’s French-speaking radio and television network RTBF: “Clearly this does not encourage people to obey the rules.” For Van Damme, the current situation will just mean people “carry on as normal”.

“And this is happening when we have filthy streets,” he emphasised. “And that, that concerns everyone in Brussels.”

Five years ago, Brussels’ secretary of state responsible for public cleanliness said 70,000 businesses did not have this fuchsia bag contract. But as the risk of controls was so small, there was no incentive to get one.

According to Van Damme, one reason is the lack of staff. Brussels Environment only employs three people to look after controls and follow-up fines.

Fuchsia bags first entered Brussels’ streets in 2003, when they were distributed to shops throwing away more than 150 litres of waste a week. By using them, the aim is to reduce the amount of non-sorted waste. Shop owners will pay less tax if they use fewer fuchsia bags and put more waste in the blue bags for recyclable waste.

Brussels Environment explains, “to increase the cleanliness of certain very commercialised zones, Bruxelles Proprété organises two collections, morning and evening, a day, Monday to Saturday, in the fuchsia bags.

Liz Newmark
The Brussels Times