Written by Ilke
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Colorful Recycling Containers for Trash Colorful Recycling Containers for Trash on flickr!

A second life

Do you want to get rid of something and it is still in good shape? Here are some options:

  • Big second hand shops - many items can be brought to big second hand shops with several addresses:
    • Kringloopwinkels: only in Flanders, but they also pick up at home if it is all in perfect state
    • TROC: everywhere in Belgium
    • Cash Converters: mainly in Brussels and Wallonia
    • Oxfam: with some shops focused on specific items (books, cloths, computers); part of the profit goes to charity
    • Petit riens/Spullenhulp: part of the profit goes to charity
  • Charity - there are many organisations which collect old goods for charity. For a small fee, collects your old glasses, English books and toys, provided you are part of their organic food delivery system. Both Petits Riens/Spullenhulp and Oxfam have collection bins for clothes and shoes at public places (street corners, supermarkets, or churches). Petits Riens even organizes an annual fashion show each autumn - with the help of some designers, your old items are turned into top fashion. You can also check out some local not-for-profit organisations, like Serve the City and SOS Children's Villages to donate your clothes, toys and other items. Often, collections are held at schools, communes or community houses. Hospitals or centres for the homeless, refugees, or migrant people, might be in need of specific items.
  • Second hand markets - many schools and organisations have an annual second hand market. Check out the most famous annual sales, like the ones by the Brussels Childbirth Trust ("Nearly New Sale" in spring and in the autumn), the British School of Brussels, the German School, and the International Montessori School (June).
  • Books - Besides the above mentioned options, some local expat libraries would be very happy with your books. As mentioned previously, collects and lends out English books.
  • Person-to-person - buying and selling can be done person-to-person through community networks like Expatica and The Bulletin, the notice boards of your school, supermarkets, expat associations, or offices, which all work very well to either sell, or buy good bargains from people who are on the move. Even your load of empty cardboard boxes can find a second life easily in the international community. You could also join internet-based sales like eBay or the Belgian equivalent Kapaza. If you want to pass your things on for free and make someone really happy, join FreeCycle.
  • Repairing - repairing clothes, tools, and toys can bring them back to life. Ask for a warranty and availability of spare parts before you buy things.
  • Exchange or swapping clubs and events - Tired of your book or dress and want a friend's advice at the same time? Why not create or join a swapping or exchange club (e.g. LETS, or Local Exchange Trading System) or an event? Swapping and swishing events have become very popular and if you do organize one, please let us know!
  • Creativity - Some items might need an upgrade or some magic dust to get a new life or be turned into a new item. With some creativity, magic can take place. There might even be some workshops needing your extra material. Computers can get a proper upgrade and a wooden crate can become a doll house or bookshelf. With a bit of paint, wonders can happen!

Let us know if you have good addresses to add to this list or our website!

2. Pre-cycling

Pre-cycling or thinking before consuming/buying is our best advice!

Do I need it? That is the question. Can I do without one? Could I repair my old one? Could I borrow one? These are the key questions to ask yourself before making a purchase. If you do need to buy one, buy one second hand. Look at the wrapping, the lifetime, and/or the recyclability of the item. Inform yourself about the environmental impact of producing the item you are planning to buy. For instance, to produce one jeans, do you know that 8,000 liters of water is needed (Google on the ecological impact of buying jeans and/or growing cotton)?

Share or Borrow - You can create your own collective group in your neighbourhood or with friends, sharing not only equipment like garden tools or repairing tools, but also toys. If a collective group sounds too drastic, asking someone to lend you an item is not that difficult.

Refill or reuse - ink cartridges, soap containers, bags, and many other things can be reused and refilled!

Rent - libraries do not only exist for books. One can also borrow CDs and DVDs at mediatheeken/mediateques and even toys at ludotheques (you could also ask at your commune). You can rent bikes at ProVelo, Villo! or check Fietsersbond for Flanders. Cars can be borrowed, too (see Cambio! If you want to rent (out) your items, check Zilo or alternatively, look in The Yellow Pages.

Have a look at our article on pre-cycling to get more ideas.

3. Dealing with Waste

If you end up with waste after all, then sorting will be needed. Living in Belgium, sorting rules and regulations are different in each region and even in each commune.

Each commune has weekly garbage collection schedule and there are some differences as to guidelines on sorting waste per commune and/or region (Brussels, Flemish or Wallonian). Information can be found in English on FostPlus or on the website of your commune. Aside from the bag for plastics/metals/tetra paks, usually, paper is collected separately. Depending on the commune, there can be a separate collection of kitchen waste and/or garden waste. Then there are the bags/bins for remaining waste, but not everything can go in there. Chemical waste, glass, electronic equipment, etc. need to be recycled differently and there starts the challenge...

Glass - What cannot be returned to the shop/market for refund need to be split into coloured glass and clear glass and can be added to glass collection bins which you can find at supermarkets or street corners. Usually, there are specific time frames: one cannot use these bins at night because they make too much noise. is an organic food delivery company which also has a very interesting not-for-profit service for waste collection. They deliver the food you ordered at your doorstep and when you return your emptied boxes, you can fill them up with waste to be recycled. In addition, selected a range of charity organizations benefitting from some of these collections. They collect the following items:

  • empty glass jars/bottles
  • empty cartridges
  • batteries
  • cork
  • plastic lids
  • used BRITTA filters
  • glass
  • English books
  • toys
  • cell phones (coming soon)

Chemical waste - like batteries, frying or car oil, left-overs from toxic products like ammonia, bleach, varnish, ink, paint, fertilizers, thermometers, saving light bulbs, and even shoe polish can be brought to the container park of your commune. In Brussels, they can also be dropped at Proxy Chimik or so called "mobile green corners" - Mobiele Groene Plekjes. The hours and locations of these mobile collections points change every month and the complete list can be found at your local commune or call 0800/981 81 (Brussels Region only).

Batteries are collected in small containers at many supermarkets and post offices, but are also collected by

Medicine - Left-over syrups and other medication which have run out of date need to be brought to your local pharmacy without the paper/cardboard wrapping.

Container parks - it depends a bit on the commune, but usually, one can get rid of big pieces like mattresses, oil (!), electronic equipment which does not work, etc. via container parks. In some communes, you will need to pay a small fee and/or an ID-card is required. Addresses and opening hours can be requested from the commune.

Collection of waste at your door - In Brussels, you can call the service to collect big waste at your door all year round. Then Net Brussel/Bruxelles Proprété will pick up your "groot huisvuil/encombrants" and the phone number is 0800/90117. In some communes, you have annual collections per neighbourhood.

Electronic equipment - If your device stopped working and you need to buy a new one, the shop is required to take the old equipment (even if you did not buy it there). Today, all new equipment you buy is taxed and labelled with Recupel and thus, all non-functioning equipment you return to the shop has to be accepted without charge. For mobile phones, you can even get a fee back, or you can donate them to charity through For more information, check our article on e-waste.

Composting - The best option would be keeping all kitchen and garden waste to be recycled at your place. Composting can be done in all gardens, on balconies, and even inside the house. Find out which model suits your home: read on composting on our website or come to one of our workshops demonstrating the different models in May-June. Alternatively, you can look for a composting place in your neighbourhood or find a neighbour to partner up with you.

Dog toilets - Check out addresses on BruCity. Be aware that you might have to pay up to 250 euros if they catch you leaving droppings in the wrong place...

Happy recycling!

This article can be found in the July 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

blog comments powered by Disqus