Thursday, September 23, 2010


As with most other things, garbage service is different here than it is in the US.

At home, we had a trash service.  They provided us with a garbage can and a recycling can.  Both cans were quite large.  Once a week they came and picked up our recycling.  Twice a week they picked up our trash.  On a quarterly basis they billed us a flat rate for this service.

In Belgium, there is a schedule for recycling.  Once every other week, there is a pick up service for our paper, plastic and metal.  The plastic and metal can be co-mingled.  Paper is separate.  There is no curb side service for glass.  Glass must be taken to some large collection bins in our community.  They are separated by clear, green and other.  As far as I know (and Kyle may correct me on this) we don't pay for recycling pick-ups.

Garbage pick-up is once a week.  We don't get a can and we don't get a bill.  Instead we buy the special garbage bags of our municipality.  They definitely cost more than Hefty bags and we don't get to choose the type we prefer - no flex, no special tie, etc.  The cost of the service is built into the bag.  As they are expensive, we don't waste them.  We are careful not to put recycling into them and we really fill the bags.

I was worried that as American consumers and wasters we would far out pace our neighbors in how many bags appeared at the end of our driveway.  Most of my neighbors have two bags and so do we.  Some of my neighbors only have one bag per week - I don't think we'll ever achieve that goal unless we are on vacation.

It is an interesting approach to waste management - pay by the amount.  It makes us think about what we are throwing away and consider if there is another way to dispose of the item.


  1. the plan for Falls Church is that they will be giving us a large can for trash. anything that doesn't fit into that can has to be in a bag with a sticker (that costs money, maybe 50 cents). so we would be paying for excess trash.

  2. Personally, I like the system over here. It puts substantially more pressure on the consumer to, in turn, put pressure on retailers not to place as much packaging on items. Overall, I think this is a good thing. It works very well in our rural/suburban location with single family homes. The big downside to this whole scheme, however, that the higher costs of trash disposal means there is greater temptation to cheat the system. Our nearby small city of Mons is filled with university students, who 1) mostly live in single-person "households" on their own, 2) are strapped for cash, 3) generate a reasonable amount of trash. The problem is that when you have say 20,000 "households" like that in a city of 60,000 households, you have 1/3 of all households looking for a way to cheat the system, often by finding public trash receptacles to throw their household trash. The reaction by city officials is predictable--provide no public trash cans. The reaction to that is people just throw their trash in the street. I have to say I've never been in a place that routinely has to sweep so much trash off the city streets every night in the wee hours.