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Policy situation in city of Mechelen, Belgium


We are yet in the process of formulating priorities, but steps are taken regarding several actions: a physical food hub Mechelen, the selective collection of biowaste from households and companies such as the hospitality sector, and decentralized processing of biowaste in local anaerobic digester and local composting site.

Towards a food hub in Mechelen

The starting point for the food hub is the existing food redistribution centre Foodsavers (founded in 2020) tackling both the problems of food waste and poverty. Since the beginning, Foodsavers has rescued over 1200 tons of food, in equivalent 3.2 tons of CO2 avoided or 84 million Euros of value captured. Together with the food hub, Mechelen wants to scale up the activities of Foodsavers and save even more food to become waste. Moreover, the food hub will be a central place in Mechelen for all food initiatives. A social restaurant on site will use the surplus food that cannot be distributed any longer, but is still useful for human consumption. The kitchen will be shared with startups that are welcome to experiment with the valorization of surplus food into new food products or other bio-based materials. The food hub will be an incubator for design, building and fashion in the circular bio-economy. Workshops and courses organized at the food hub will result in even more food waste prevention through citizens that learn how cook with kitchen scraps or techniques to preserve food longer. The food hub will also house a short chain distribution platform that will serve as a central hub for the B2B supply and delivery of local farm products from the farms in the suburbs of Mechelen towards retail, restaurants and companies in the city centre. All biowaste streams that are no longer useful for food or other applications will be centralized and recycled into bio-energy and/or compost. The next steps are to find financing through new projects and partners or investors for the purchase of the site and necessary infrastructure.

Selective collection of biowaste from households in Mechelen

There is no yet the system  for the separate collection of biowaste from Mechelen's households. The intermunicipal waste company (IVAREM) which is in charge for the management of all waste including bio-waste in Mechelen and nine other municipalities foresees the implementation of the separate biowaste collection by the end of 2025. The plan is to organize a two weekly door-to-door collection in containers and public drop-off points at key places in the city. The processing will be centralized outside of Mechelen. At the moment, there is a shortage of processing capacity in Flanders if all municipalities will start with the separate collection of biowaste, which according to legislation needs to be latest by 2026. New locations and infrastructure will need to be build. The organic waste policy in Flanders has a two-fold approach: there is the central processing (‘large cycle’) or decentralized processing (‘small cycle’). The large cycle refers to the selective collection and processing of biowaste towards industrial treatment plants. The small cycle on the other hand focusses on decentral or local processing of organic waste. Sensitizing, preventing, and educating the citizens how to do it themselves, is important in this small cycle. The small cycle is some sort of prevention. Waste that is not taken with the door to door collection or given to the recycling parcs is not seen as waste. That is the interpretation in Flanders to the waste directives. That is also the reason why we often call it organic remains or organic residues, instead of organic waste. In this respect, the city of Mechelen has been promoting home and community level composting for over decades and will remain doing so with granting subsidies for compost bins to citizens and the support of community gardens in and around the city. Schools are also encouraged to recycle their own biowaste and workshops are organized to teach the children how to compost and why it is important. According to VLACO (the Flemish compost and biogas organization) 41% of the people in Flanders are composting at home.

Decentralized processing of biowaste in local anaerobic digester and local composting site

For the collection of biowaste from the hospitality sector a subsidy of € 30.000 was granted to a consortium that will collect the biowaste from the restaurants in the city centre with cargo bikes and process it in a modular scalable anaerobic digester.. The produced energy from the biowaste will be used to heat the local hospital and the residual digestate will be used as a fertilizer for the plants in the city. The water from the digester will be separated and filtered to rainwater quality and used to flush the toilets from the hospital. This innovative idea that offers a full self-sustaining local solution to biowaste comes from the startup Green City Systems powered by Mezzo Energy.


Circular economy
Citizen engagement