Beyond Waste: Studies and Actions based on Voices from Cureghem

Early in the morning, when the streets of Cureghem are still asleep, the waste collectors come. It’s a Wednesday and for a short moment the streets of Cureghem look cleaner than usual. No cardboard boxes, no rubbish bags – for many here the ideal scenario. Right now, Andrea Bortolotti‘s statistics of garbage piling up along Chaussée de Mons seem as if they were completely made up. Andrea is a researcher and member of the syncity project. Together with Christian Dessouroux, and social workers Cataline Sénéchal, Vital Marage, and Hazem Yabroudi he set up an Urban Lab which aims to solve the problematic of everyday garbage management in the heart of Cureghem. The group’s main ambition is to find tailor-made solutions in agreement with the entrepreneurs, the residents and the city administration.

Not only in Chausée de Mons, but also in other parts of Cureghem, large amounts of waste accumulate over the course of days. The white bags indicate household waste. Photo by SYNCITY, 2020.

Waste management does require specific knowledge

Managing waste is a challenging task. It consumes time and money, it requires space, which is hardly available in the streets of Cureghem and it becomes more complex the more people live and run their businesses in the city. Waste management does also require specific knowledge about when, how and where it can be disposed. Different types of waste are produced and collected at different times of the day. For Chaussée de Mons between the Clémenceau metro and Porte de Ninove, the key problematic area regarding waste in Cureghem, the syncity team has created the basis for a scientifically sound approach to tackle the issue: Andrea Bortolotti’s team, compiled censuses before and after the COVID-19 lockdown, it counted the amount of rubbish bags of each colour and conducted interviews with local shopkeepers. Even if focusing on Chausée de Mons in their data collection, the censuses do not limit themselves as they illustrate the complexity of the Brussels waste management system: white bags are used to collect household waste and pink bags are used for commercial waste. The blue bag or Sac PMC is used for collecting plastic bottles; the yellow bag for paper and cardboard. There are also types of waste without a bag. Among other things oil canisters and cardboard and plastic packages.

Waste counts on the left side of the Chaussée de Mons on three days before and after lockdown. The colours indicate different types of rubbish. From top to bottom, the legend can be translated as follows: white bags, pink bags, PMC bags, yellow bags, packaging material, illegal dumping, oil canisters).
Waste Count (left side)
Chaussee de Mons
Waste Count (right side)
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Waste should not dominate the image of the street

The waste collection system is one problematic; the challenges of everyday waste management are another. In the surveys conducted in the forefront of the syncity Urban Labs, but also in the Urban Labs themselves, concerns were raised that deserve to be addressed at this point: Waste should not be allowed to dominate the image of the street too much and has an effect on customer frequency. Disposal of waste requires resources, not only those of the city administration but also those of business people. The collection of waste is responding too slowly to the needs of residents and business people, especially with regard to alternative packaging materials beyond cardboard and plastic. In the map, selected anonymous voices and photographs from Chaussée the Mons shed light on these and other challenges and suggestions with which the business community in particular sees itself confronted. All quotes derive from the research undertaken by syncity researchers and social workers in the district but were then condensed, sleeked and anonymized during translation from French to English. For more detail going beyond sheer representation of the diversity of challenges connected to the waste management at Chaussée de Mons you may get in touch with the study authors.

In syncity Andrea has gone beyond data collection and analysis. Together with his colleagues he has become a key organizer for Urban Labs that shall ensure that the situation evidenced in the early Wednesday morning hours when waste collectors have cleaned up the street, either endures for a little longer or becomes the status quo. He initiated and co-created a forum where stakeholders are invited to participate and formulate their concerns and ideas. The ambition is to create a shared understanding of the challenges that may turns into the basis for coordinated action togehter with officials at a later stage.

All Photos and Graphics in this Cureghem Tale have been produced by the syncity team. For further detail please contact us.