Initiatives and the 5Rs

How can we move towards Zero waste on a daily basis? The "5Rs" Rule. 

Béa Johnson, also known as “the mother of the zero waste lifestyle movement”, popularised this way of life which she describes in her book “Zero Waste”, published in 2014. She explains the five steps of this philosophy. These five steps of the 5R method must be applied to each consumer choice, in the following order:

  • Refuse: everything we don't need. To achieve this goal, we must learn to identify what we really need, to separate the contents from each container in order to refuse what will end up in the bin or will soon create clutter in our home. Some examples: advertising in the letterbox, plastic bags, straw, samples, “3 + 1 free” deals when you can only consume two before the use-by date, etc.
  • Reduce: things that you cannot refuse or don't want to. However, you can reduce your general consumption. What are our needs? Being able to identify our true needs means saying no to overconsumption.
  • Reuse: before throwing away an object, let's think about giving it a second life to extend the duration of its use. For example: old socks can be used to make tawashis (sponges); pallets can be used to make a wooden Christmas tree, a planter, armchairs; a T-shirt can be made into a bag, etc.
  • Recycle: everyone is familiar with this step, often mistakenly shown as “the ultimate solution”, but the impact of the other three “Rs” is essential to prevent waste. Recycling is a method of waste management and not of prevention. Ideally, this should only be considered when it is difficult to avoid producing waste.
  • Return to the earth (compost): if the first four steps have been followed in order to eliminate waste upstream, only compostable organic material will remain (coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels, etc.).

How can you convert this theory into practice? First of all, it is about questioning your lifestyle before you can become a fully consciousness consumer.

Règles 5R

The plastic regulation

Each year, the City of Brussels collects around 1,139 tonnes of unsorted waste and this only covers events. This costs more than € 100,000, i.e. nearly 1/10th of the total quantity and total budget for waste collection in the city. We must point out that a significant part of this waste consists of single-use plastics. As we know, plastic has practical advantages. But it is a major source of pollution! This pollution is immense and continuous (from production to incineration). Especially, since it is found everywhere in nature.

As part of its goal to reduce the quantities of waste produced, on 24 September 2018, the City Council adopted the decree on “the prohibition of the use of single-use plastic during events in public spaces”. This new municipal regulation entered into force on 1 July 2019 and applies to the distribution and use of single-use plastic objects. This affects all events subject to authorisation and taking place in the public sphere in the City of Brussels.

The City of Brussels has therefore adopted these measures ahead of its European and regional partners. Stirrers, mini-forks for chips, balloons and plastic sticks, not to mention plastic plates, cups and cutlery are now prohibited during events in the Brussels region. A check-list has been established based on the draft European directive. It aims to ban single-use plastic and highlights “best practices”, in cooperation with event organisers and city departments. This check-list contains:

  1. Prohibited products
  2. Products tolerated but whose use should be reduced
  3. Possible and undesirable alternatives

Event organisers in the Brussels region have already taken note of this by-law. In 2019, an information campaign was launched aimed at the inhabitants of the City. In the event of non-compliance, offenders will be liable to penalties.

This by-law is necessary in order to reduce waste. It is part of a larger action plan for the sustainable management of events and the progressive application of zero waste. However, this project goes even further! It concerns all policies and initiatives carried out by the City and applies to all disposable waste, whatever it may be.

List of prohibited items and possible alternatives

Prohibited items without alternatives

  1. Stirrers, mini-forks for chips, "mini-picks" or mini-ice cream and/or waffle spoons
  2. Balloons and plastic sticks

Prohibited items and alternatives

  1. Trays, plates and containers
    • Proposed alternatives: 

      • Bagasse plates 
      • Plates/contents in cardboard preferably certified sustainable
      • Reusable tableware
    • Beware! Unwanted alternatives: aluminium containers. 

    • Raise awareness: "You can encourage your audience to bring their own containers"

  2. Tumblers 
    • Proposed alternatives: 

      • Certified cardboard cups

      • Reusable cups

    • Beware! Unwanted alternatives: cans

  3. Cutlery
    • Proposed alternatives: 

      • Reusable cutlery

      • Wooden cutlery

      • Bamboo cutlery

    • We recommend that you avoid serving food that requires cutlery

  4. Straws 
    • Proposed alternatives: 

      • Bamboo and stainless steel straws

  5. Disposable plastic bags
    • Proposed alternatives: 

      • Reusable bags and bulk

Objects whose use and distribution must be limited. 

Don't forget to collect, sort and recycle them
  1. Cable ties

    • Proposed alternatives: 

      • Metal cable ties

  2. Plastic bottles    

    • Proposed alternatives: 

      • Reusable water bottle

  3. Packaging and pre-packaged products

    • Proposed alternatives: 

      • Reusable bags and bulk  

  4. Cigarette filters