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Focus: monitoring of the main waste material flows from professionals

For professional flows, we only have estimates based on a number of hypotheses, which obviously limits the exhaustiveness and accuracy of data. The Recydata study (Feb 2014) surveyed 8 flows from all of the waste produced by professionals, by recording the tonnages of post-consumer waste which are collected by private operators. The figures obtained are therefore a partial reflection of the reality on the ground. However, the results obtained for the reference year 2012 make it possible already to draw up an initial situational analysis of the primary flows ; and should make it possible to measure the effects of professionals' obligation to sort waste, when the 2014 data will be available. The initial results of the Recydata method indicate that there is an encouraging recycling rate for non-household waste. However these results will need to be sustained and confirmed in the coming years.

The context of the focus

In order to evaluate the Region's performance in terms of prevention and recycling of non-household waste, the administration needs data which is representative of the initial situational analysis of the flows in question. On the other hand, the government would like to verify the effects of the obligation to sort waste, which has been imposed on producers and holders of waste other than household waste since February 2014 by the Brussels Government Decree of 21 June 2012. This obligatory sorting concerns flows of paper and cardboard waste, PMD, container glass and plant waste (a sorting obligation already existed for hazardous waste (1991), animal waste (1993), construction and demolition waste (1995) and waste falling under the take-back obligation (2002). The availability of reliable and comparable data over time is a vital prerequisite for examining the performance of the measures which have been implemented, and to steer waste policy in an effective manner. Although data on quantities and processing methods pertaining to household waste are available (see Focus on the tonnages of household and assimilated waste), the same cannot be said for waste produced in a professional context. The capture of data on the waste produced by businesses and administrations is made even more complex since, due to a lack of an annual inventory and monitoring of these quantities, businesses and administrations themselves are not even aware of the quantities of waste they produce. It falls then on the Region to implement an operational reporting system.

The term "professional waste" is used here for waste which is not part of household or assimilated waste. There are two approaches which would make it possible to obtain estimates for this type of waste: firstly, a per sector of activity approach and secondly, a per flow approach.  Estimates for the per sector approach are made using the production ratio for the sector or from extrapolations from surveys carried out on the ground for certain key sectors (e.g. horeca, construction, offices, etc.). This approach forms the basis of the focuses on waste which were part of the State of the Environment reports for 2007-2008 and 2011-2012. The present focus is interested in the per flow approach, as developed in the Recydata study and based on monitoring data regarding the quantities of waste collected by professional managers in the Brussels-Capital Region. The analysis in question relates to the deposits of 8 generic flows of 'primary' non-household waste collected in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and to the final disposal carried out by private operators.

Numerical objectives and the setting of deadlines

The requirements of the regional waste plan in force are not subject to any deadline in principle, since the duration of the plan is indefinite. Nonetheless the plan stipulates that "The objective is to implement measures by 2013" [4th waste plan, p. 8]. The setting of this target suggests that the content of the plan was drawn up with a 5 year timescale at the most, with other objectives proposed for a 2020 timescale [2015 assessment of the plan, p. 11]:

  • reduce the production of non-household waste by 10%
  • recycle 50% of industrial waste
  • recycle 90% of the total of construction and demolition waste.

Methodology of the Recydata analysis

Most of the private operators working in waste collection and treatment are members of sector federations, COBEREC (which represents the recovery and recycling sector) and FEGE (which represents private waste management companies active in Belgium). Among the collectors accredited by VAL-I-PAC, the authors of the study identified and selected the operators with customers in the Brussels-Capital Region. Given the significant number of professionals (80,000 according to the Recydata study) producing waste in the territory and the no less than 700 actors who are potentially active in the collection of non-household waste in the Brussels territory, it was necessary first of all to determine objective criteria to limit the number of businesses to contact. Thirty three operators considered important and representative for the Region were selected to participate in the survey. Ultimately, the study was based on the data obtained from 31 managers who agreed to extract these data from their inflow registers. Since the tonnages of some operators pass through another operator, the declarations of the latter indirectly provided data regarding operators who did not make any direct declaration to Recydata themselves. The method used was validated by representatives of all the parties concerned, in order to ensure that the survey was as realistic as possible: these were the administration of Brussels Environment, the COBEREC and FEGE federations, private companies which are potentially active in the collection of this type of waste within the regional territory, and people with expertise in glass, wood, paper/cardboard and inert materials.

The study was limited to deposits of primary industrial waste, in other words post-consumer waste. This means that business waste originating from manufacturing/transformation processes (production scraps) was not included in the survey, nor were materials intended to prepare for reuse and/or recycling. Hazardous waste was also excluded from the survey. The flows analysed were:

  • paper/cardboard
  • wood
  • plastic
  • metal (at the request of Brussels Environment, a quantity of pre-consumer metal waste was included in this flow)
  • glass
  • bio-waste
  • inert waste (construction and demolition)
  • residual waste

The study counted the quantities collected in 2012 (and, if available, 2011 and 2010) by private professional operators. Recydata therefore did not take into account the quantities collected by the public operator Bruxelles Propreté, nor the inflows of material from household sources (e.g. collections in container parks). Given that only 23 (of the 31) operators taking part still know the tonnages which they collected in 2010 and 2011, the study tried to estimate the tonnages for the other operators using two different methods of backward projection. The tonnages originating from these two methods show very significant differences. This exercise demonstrates that it is very difficult to obtain reliable estimates of tonnages using backward projections/extrapolations. To avoid such problems, it is advisable to collect data from operators relatively promptly.

The grouping and classification of waste for the study had to be done manually, since each operator uses various designations to identify the same flow, to such an extent that any automatic processing of the data is impossible. For the Eural codes, the study highlighted the large disparity between theory and practice on the ground: in theory, the Eural waste code enables the activity of its producer to be traced. In practice, it was found that the Eural codes are more linked to the nature of the waste rather than the economic sector of its producer. Moreover, it is difficult to distinguish between waste similar to household waste (codes 20 xx xx) and packaging waste (codes 15 xx xx). The classification according to the EURAL codes which features in the study should consequently be interpreted with caution.

Quantities of 'professional' deposits

In some sectors of activity, the producer collects itself the waste produced, without relying on  a specialised waste collector. This is the case for example for a portion of construction and demolition waste, for companies who take care of installing frame, the company Carglass and some major brands in the distribution sector. It was not always possible to take into account the tonnages concerned by these return logistic systems. However, the first table includes the tonnages produced by the companies Aldi, Carrefour, Colruyt, Delhaize, Lidl and Wibra.

Destination of materials and treatment methods

The destinations of waste were grouped according to the D & R codes defined in Annex I of the Directive 2008/98/EC. The volume of incoming waste has been broken down pro rata of the different destinations/treatment methods used: the D codes correspond to elimination operations, and R codes equate to reclamation operations.

D1 = Deposit into or on to land (for example, landfill)
D5 = Specially engineered landfill (for example, placement into lined discrete cells which are capped and isolated from one another and the environment)
D10 = Incineration on land
R1 = Use principally as a fuel or other means to generate energy
R3 = Recycling/reclamation of organic substances which are not used as solvents (including composting and other biological transformation processes)
R3b = Reclamation as bio-gas
R3c = Reclamation as compost
R4 = Recycling/reclamation of metals and metal compounds
R5 = Recycling/reclamation of other inorganic materials
R13 = Storage of waste pending any of the operations numbered R1 to R12

For each material, the study provides also an overview of traders (if relevant) and recycling companies. Although it is not exhaustive, the overview is representative of 90% of the materials collected.

The recycling rate for all of the professional waste taken into account for the study is estimated at 68%. This rate should be analysed with caution since the Recydata study was limited to eight flows and does not include all waste collected. Moreover, the result is strongly influenced by inert construction and demolition waste and does not represent the reality of businesses from other sectors.

Limits of the survey and outlook

The limits of the survey result directly from its methodology (cfr. supra). The detailed presentation of all the constraints due to the reality on the ground, the choices arising from these and the limits of the survey in terms of the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the data are specified for each of the materials in the second part of the report. This detail would take us too far, within the scope of this focus.

The major disadvantage of using the quantities collected by professional waste managers as the basis for counting the quantities of generated waste is that, currently, the collectors are not able to provide information on the producers of waste. For this reason, sector surveys will need to supplement the evaluation. This will be one of the future missions of the waste observatory of the Region, which is planned in the Regional Programme for a Circular Economy. In order to obtain reliable waste indicators in the long run, the challenge of the Observatory will be to define a methodology with the concerned actors to improve the quality of data at the Regional level, and to manage to ensure its follow-up over time. In March 2015, Brussels Environment launched a second edition of the Recydata study.

Date de mise à jour: 14/12/2017


State of the Environment’s sheet(s)

Construction and demolition waste (edition 2011-2012)

Waste produced in Brussels-Capital Region (edition 2007-2008)

Other publications from Brussels Environment

Report concerning the evaluation of the 4th "prevention and management of waste" plan, april 2015, 96 pages without annexes (internal report, in French only)

Infofiche « Inventaire déchets», 2012

Study(ies) and report(s)

RECYDATA, February 2014. « Monitoring des quantités de déchets industriels générés dans la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale en 2010, 2011 et 2012 et de leurs modes de traitement ». Study performed on behalf of Brussels Environment, 52 pp. (.pdf, in French only)

ECORES sprl, ICEDD, BATir (ULB), july 2015. « Métabolisme de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale: identification des flux, acteurs et activités économiques sur le territoire et pistes de réflexion pour l’optimisation des ressources ». Study performed on behalf of Brussels Environment, 305 pp. (in French only) (.pdf)

Plan(s) and programme(s)

"Quatrième plan de prévention et de gestion des déchets en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale" (4th "prevention and management of waste" plan), 11 march 2010 (.pdf, in French and Dutch only)