Reuse Centres in Flanders (Belgium)

15/10/2012 - The system of Reuse Centres originated in the Netherlands and was imported to Flanders in the early 1990s. The centres collect, sort, repair and resell a wide range of discarded products such as clothing, appliances, furniture, kitchenware, books, and bicycles.

Used goods are systematically collected (pick-up at home, delivery), sorted into saleable and non-saleable items, thoroughly checked, repaired or refurbished, and finally sold. Re-use Centres in Flanders also have a social function, offering job opportunities for long-term unemployed people and raising awareness for reuse and recycling among the population. Some centres have even developed additional activities such as bicycle repair services, social restaurants, cleaning services, etc.
About 80 per cent of the Reuse Centres comply with the quality label ‘Kringwinkel’ which guarantees the quality of the sold products, shop infrastructure and customer service. ‘Revisie’, an initiative of the re-use sector, provides a guarantee label (up to 6 months) for second-hand electric or electronic equipment (EEE).

The Reuse Centres depend a lot on subsidies from the Flemish government (2005: €930,000), and can also receive financial support from the provinces or local authorities. Quantitative objectives ensure a strategic development of the system. A yearly survey keeps track of the centres’ work and achievements.

In 2008, 47.218 tonnes of reusable goods were diverted from the waste stream, a ten per cent increase compared to 2007. The three most important collected product groups are furniture, EEE and textiles, together representing 82% of the collected goods. Almost half of the incoming goods were reused, also a ten per cent increase to the previous year. For 2015, the Flemish Reuse Centres aspire a collection rate of 10 kg/inh/y, of which at least 50 per cent is effectively reused, and intend to reach 4,000,000 paying customers.

Detailed information about this re-use scheme, as well as other case studies, can be found in the Miniwaste inventory of good practices. Similar reuse schemes can also be found among the Pre-waste Best Practices such as Alelyckan Reuse Park in Sweden.