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Worms in your kitchen: composting in Brussels
No, worms in the kitchen not the newest hypoallergenic pet craze. These are working worms: you give them some soil and feed them your bits of vegetable scraps and last weeks’ gone off mashed potatoes and they will work diligently to break down your waste and create fine, nutrient-rich soil. It’s called vermicomposting and it’s becoming an easy and popular way for urban apartment dwellers to keep a large portion of their waste out of the landfill.
Brussels’ estimates that organic matter makes up some 50 per cent of the weight of a given “white” bin bag, the bags used for general garbage that cannot be recycled and is destined for the landfill.
But organic waste is incredibly useful. It can be composted to make soils richer. If you have the facilities, it can also create biogas that can be used as a clear, green heating and power source. By composting, of the vermi- variety or otherwise, we improve our environment, keep unnecessary trash out of landfills, and have ready access to great soil to grow better fruits, flowers and vegetables.
More and more people in Brussels, including individuals, businesses and communes, are jumping on the composting bandwagon, showing how easy it can be to compost in an urban setting.
Starting to compost
The main organisation in Brussels for composting is Worms, standing for Waste Organic Recycling and Management Solutions. Worms is a non-profit that helps people in Belgium bring composting into homes, schools businesses. They run the Brussels Environment helpdesk that answers questions about composting, sell equipment to get you started in composting or vermicomposting, and give free composting courses.
The first thing you have to decide is where you want to compost. If you have a garden, then setting aside a corner for composting is a great place to start. If you live in an apartment, then vermicomposting might be your best choice – if done right, it doesn’t smell any worse than your regular bin and Worms will help you buy or make the right materials you’ll need.
If you don’t have a garden and aren’t quite ready for worms in your kitchen, there are also dozens of community composts in all over Brussels. These are volunteer-led and often housed in community gardens or public parks. There, you can dispose of your organic waste in a place that will benefits your while community, as the compost will be used in the park or garden.
Brussels communes are also getting into composting in their efforts to reduce their waste processing. For the last two years, the communes of Auderghem, Forest, Etterbeek, Evere and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre have been rolling out Be-Organic, a programme that distributes free bags and containers to commune residents for the disposal of organic waste. Instead of throwing out your vegetable scraps or leftovers, you can place them in a special trash bag to be composted by the city.
Weekly collections send the waste to a processing plant outside Brussels which grinds and composts it to produce biogas, used in heating and power, and digestate, which can be used to improve soil.
Even if you already compost at home, the Be-Organic initiative encourages residents of these communes to participate in their waste programme. In the organic waste bags, you can dispose of items that take too long to biodegrade for many home composts, such as avocado shells, lemon peels or biodegradable packaging.
Photo © Katy Desmond