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Sensible use of resources and prevention of waste via the social economy
Since 2004, the Region has provided financial support to companies in the social economy that are active in the collection and management of textile waste, bulky waste, waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and ink cartridges. In 2012, the vast majority of the waste that was collected by the seven recognised social economy organisations was put to good use through reuse or recycling (accounting for 85.1% of textile waste, 82.8% of bulky waste, 100% of WEEE and 83.7% of ink cartridges).
The resources’ issue is primarily addressed in the Regional Waste Prevention and Management Plan (the “Waste Plan”), but also in the Region’s energy efficiency policy and water management policy.
The fourth Waste Plan deals with the impact of waste on consumption of resources. Priority is given to waste prevention and eco-design. The plan sets measurable prevention targets for numerous waste flows by 2020. It also provides for the continuation of an ambitious policy of sustainable purchasing by promoting objective research into sustainable consumption, developing partnerships with the distribution sector and merchants and supporting “sustainable behaviours”. As a result, emphasis is being placed on reuse, repair and second-hand sales as priority sectors. In the Brussels-Capital Region, these sectors are well represented by the social and solidarity economy.
Since 2004, the Region has given financial support to businesses in the social economy that are active in the field of waste recovery. Brussels Environment has also provided financial support for various initiatives by businesses in the social economy, and in particular for infrastructure work such as shop renovations, the creation of centres for training through work and so on.
A Brussels Government Decree opens up the possibility of ratifying organisations that are active in the field of recovery of discarded goods. It also gives them access to regional subsidies, these are in proportion of the quantities of waste collected and actually reused in the Brussels Region. This ratification entitles them to a reduced rate of VAT which is intended for specific ratified professions of a social nature. For instance, organisations that have been ratified benefit from a reduced rate of VAT on the sale of second-hand goods.
Social economy businesses in the BCR: trend in activities
Trend in the tonnage of waste collected and subsidies received by companies operating in the sector of social economy for the collection and processing of various waste streams
Source: Brussels Environment; data on the quantities collected in 2013 are not yet available.
Five organisations active in the collection and processing of textile waste, bric-a-brac and waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) have been ratified since 2004: Oxfam, Spullenhulp, La Poudrière, Terre and the Salvation Army. A sixth, GIGA Services, active in the field of computer consumables got its ratification in 2011, and CF2M, active in the WEEE sector in 2012. In 2013 the total subsidies awarded to these six organisations amounted to just over 350,000 euros. These subsidies have funded the collection and processing of more than 50,150 tonnes of waste since 2005: more than 29,900 tonnes of textiles, more than 16,200 tonnes of bric-a-brac and more than 3,900 tonnes of waste of electrical and electronic equipment. The details for each year and each waste stream are shown in the graph. Ink cartridges are not included here (in 2012 Giga Services collected more than 20,600 ink cartridges).
Most of the waste collected by the social economy organisations that are subsidised by the Region was either reused or recycled. In 2012, 85.1% of textile waste was recovered (58.4% reused, 26.7% recycled). 82.8% of bric-a-brac was recovered (46.2% reused, 36.6% recycled); 100% of electrical and electronic equipment waste was recovered (41.9% reused, 58.1% recycled). 83.7% of ink cartridges were reused.
In 2005, 600 people were employed by the social and solidarity economy (corresponding to 540 FTEs).
The Ecopool project
In 2008, the Region also received more than 4 million euros from the ERDF 2007-2013 programme for the Ecopool project, involving the development of a "reuse centre", managed by the Regional Agency for Public Cleanliness (“Bruxelles-Propreté”), and drawing on the resources of the social economy. There are also plans to develop the centre into an information centre on reuse and recycling techniques, thus contributing to the development and dissemination of innovative solutions to reduce the volume of incinerated waste. As a result, Bruxelles-Propreté should be able to send 1,500 to 1,800 tonnes of bric-a-brac every year (out of the 15,000 tonnes which is currently collected) to centres for reuse, repair and recycling. The first social economy organisation took up residence at the Ecopool in 2012, and the others should follow in 2014.