Waste sorting at Brussels Airport: a challenge for passengers

June 20, 2013
Unlike the sorting of waste in their households, waste sorting out of home has not yet been an automatic reflex action for the majority of Belgians. This is even less true for the many passengers from abroad who might not even be familiar with the concept of sorting waste. Nevertheless, Brussels Airport wants to tackle this enormous challenge with the support of OVAM and Fost Plus and encourage the millions of airport travellers to sort their waste in a correct manner.

The complexity of the public and the infrastructure at Brussels Airport make this an interesting example illustrating how selective collection in "companies" works in practice. This will become mandatory in Flanders from July 1. 

Waste that deserves a second life
Last year the passengers, shops and staff at Brussels Airport produced over 2000 tons of unsorted waste. This annual amount can be reduced by sorting and removing recyclables (mostly paper-cardboard and PMD). An increase of the recycling rate also results in a smaller environmental footprint from the airport’s activities. Indeed, recycling reduces CO2 emission and enables a return of raw material into the economy. Whereas five tons of PMD were collected in 2012, Brussels Airport is aiming to quintuple this amount in 2013.

An integrated and indispensable approach
Given the diversity of the public, a harmonised approach proved essential. As a result, 192 sorting islands were installed at relevant spots on the airport surface (each one consisting of three bins for residual waste – paper-cardboard and PMD) accounting for 576 bins at the disposal of all passengers to sort their waste. The sorting instructions on the waste collection bins are very clear for everybody to understand (including for travellers from those countries where sorting waste is not widespread or who do not speak a European language) and the used colour codes are known to the Belgian public (blue = PMD; yellow = paper-cardboard; grey = residual waste). The airport cleaning crews who empty the bins were also involved and trained so that the waste sorted by the passengers may be recycled.

All companies in Flanders must sort their waste from July 1
Brussels Airport is not the only company that is intensely concerned about its waste management. Indeed, the Flemish legislation stipulates that apart from 17 already existing waste recycling streams, all companies on Flemish soil will have to sort their PMD from July 1 and be able to present an agreement with their collector of mixed industrial waste. The agreement indicates the kind of waste materials released in the company and how they are to be collected. 

For more information about these new obligations, companies can go to www.ovam.be/sorteermeer or dial 1700, the number of the “Vlaamse Infolijn”.

In order to facilitate the sorting obligations, Fost Plus created the website www.sorterenophetwerk.be where one will find tips and tricks as well as hands-on communication material.

The current development will extend waste sorting to all parts of people’s professional and private lives. Whereas before, sorting only happened at home, it will become the general rule in the future.
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