A guide to recycling your waste
If you’re wondering what you can recycle, how and where, our guide will tell you everything you need to know about blue, yellow, green and brown bins and the blue/green Valorlux sacks, plus recycling and re-box centres, and green recycle parks.
First, did you know that 670 recycled aluminium cans can make one bicycle frame, or that 1 tonne of aluminium recycled saves 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide? One tonne of recycled paper saves the same energy as having your LCD TV on for 2 days, and one tonne of recycled glass saves the equivalent of 858 days of powering an LCD TV, and saves on carbon dioxide to the tune of emissions from a car driving 5,600km.
So the main message - it is worth recycling, particularly as in Luxembourg you can do much of this using curbside collections and recycling centres.
The blue/green bag
Valorlux collects a big bulk of recyclable household waste in the blue or green bags which you can order online or pick up at your commune, train stations and even some supermarkets. The commune of Kehlen is currently trialling the use of blue/green bags for public bins in 32 places.
An EU directive says that 50% of plastic packaging should be recycled by 2025, rising to 55% by 2030. Currently Luxembourg recycles 34.7% (although this is 58.85% of household recycling according to Valorlux). The rest is from industrial or catering waste which currently does not use a Valorlux system.
What can go in the bag?
Plastic pots (including yoghurt pots and butter containers), cups and trays, and plastic packaging (such as those used on bottled water packs) in addition to plastic bags. Plastic bottles, including ones containing detergent or shampoo, metal packaging (including food trays used for cat food), tins, cans, metal screw tops, jar lids and plastic corks.
You can even include the metal casing for tea light candles and beverage cartons. You should make sure items are empty of food stuff and clean of an residue. Crush cans, and beverage cartons.
Since the extension of products that can be recycled in July 2021, quantities of packagine waste collected has gone up by 33.23%.
What not to put in the bag
No coffee grounds, crisp or pet food bags or pouches or coffee machine capsules. No black plastic (as used in some Amazon deliveries – because it cannot be recognised in the optical sorting), and no Styrofoam.
Bioplastic/plastified cardboard a new problem
Valorlux indicate growing concern from used of plastified cardboard to replace plastic packaging. This is card or paper with a thin layer of plastic on it, popularly replacing plastic packaging of fruit, vegetables or sandwich cartons. The problem is, it cannot be easily recycled so has in fact increased non-recyclable waste.
Biodegradable plastic may be considered compostable, but only in specific controlled settings using industrial composting (so don't put it in your compost bin as it has to be removed as waste).
The yellow bin (green in the city) is for glass, the blue bin for paper, the brown bin for organic waste and the green one for garden waste. In some communes that don’t have brown bin collections, you can put some of your organic waste in the green bin, but check with your commune first.
The yellow or green bin (if you live in Luxembourg City) is for glass such as empty water or wine bottles, food jars (should be rinsed) and don’t forget that the lids made from metal need to go into the blue bag. Don’t put lightbulbs, mirrors or porcelain into this bin as they are handled differently. You should take these items to a recycling centre. Advice on returnable bottles is to return them to the sales or manufacture outlet which will clean and reuse them, the most eco-friendly way to recycle.
Glass is crushed and cleaned in Luxembourg then transported to France where it is treated. This “cullet” as it is known, is then ready to be heated and reformed into glass bottles. Some glass manufacturers use 90% cullet. One tonne of recycled glass in the form of cullet can be used to make 2,200 bottles holding 75cl.
The blue bin is for paper and cardboard goes, although it’s probably easier to take bigger delivery boxes to a recycling centre. Don't put used tissues or kitchen roll into this bin (other than the cardboard inner tube). Luxembourg residents recycle approximately 147kg of card and paper each year, and about 57% of this was already recycled. You should flatten all boxes and where possible remove staples from paper. Advice is not to tear up paper, as it isn’t easy to identify in the sorting process, and till receipts can also be added. Paper is pulped and de-inked, and graded. Stuff that has already been recycled will degrade in quality and cannot be used for certain products.
Brown bin – organic waste, such as food leftovers, fruit and vegetables (including peel, which you should wrap in newspaper if possible), coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, and prawn skins, hard bread, non-woody garden waste such as grass cuttings or waste turf, pet dung, biodegradable bags, and cut flowers. However, you should not put household waste, cigarette butts or ash from BBQs, any fats or oils, sanitary towels or tampons, woody garden waste such as branches, hedge, shrub or rose bush clippings, woodchip or treated wood, soil, paper napkins and tissues, nappies or cat litter.
Green bin – garden waste can be put in this, though not big logs. Bigger items can be taken to the compostage in Mamer, or to 12 green waste collection points in Remich, Redange, Wiltz, Clervaux, Echternach, Diekirch, Grevenmacher, Vianden, Esch, Capellen, Luxembourg City and Mersch. There, chippers will break down branches and turn them into wood chip that is sold by the bag. Grass cuttings should go in your brown bin, unless your green bin is for garden and organic waste (you can check with your commune).
Bin and bag collection
Your local commune or the VdL website should be able to provide you with details of when bins are collected in your area, whilst Valorlux has an app for blue/green sack collections.
There are recycle parks in Clervaux, Wiltz, north of Diekirch, Echternach, Mersch, near Junglinster, Betzdorf, Schuttrange, Luxembourg city, Wormeldange, between Hesperange and Contern, Remich, Mondor-les-Bains, south of Bettembourg, Dudelange, between Foetz and Schifflange, near Rodange, Käerjeng, Sanem, Kehlen and Redange.
If you live in the city and want to use the recycling centre on Route d'Arlon/rue du Stade you will need an access card (aged 18 years plus). You can apply for one by filling in a form, available and to be handed in at the centre, and the card can be issued on site. You can find opening times here.
From 2024 supermarkets more than 400sqm in size must have their own recycling centres and a year later bigger supermarkets (1,500sqm) must have paper, glass, plastic and metal recycling units on their premises.
This non-profit organisation provides advice on where to recycle old electronic equipment (including where, in the case of old laptops, smartphones or tablets, it can be reused), white good items such as ovens or fridges, and smaller items like irons and fat fryers. Often there will places at the main recycling centres, but there is list of places by location and commune to help you find the nearest one. There is a charge for some items, and for bigger goods you can organise and pay for collection.
You’ll find these at Redange, Eischen, Mersch, Windhof, Capellen, Foetz, Hesperange, Niederanven, Grevenmacher, Wasserbillig, Weiswampach and Pommerloch.
Luxembourg City has 56 public collection stations for glass, cardboard, clothes and batteries, and you’ll find bins for textile, shoe, glass and battery recycling in supermarket carparks and petrol station forecourts. Before you recycle clothing consider giving it to charity if it’s in good condition or if it’s designer, you could sell it to a second-hand clothes shop.
Eco-bags used for shopping have saved the use of more than 1 billion single-use plastic bags already, and saved us recycling almost eight extra tonnes of plastic. The new mesh bag for fruit and vegetables aims to reduce single-use plastic bags by 90% and is made from fully recyclable materials.
Where does it go?
Recycled materials are sorted by Hein Dechets at their centre in Bech-Kleinmacher, then sold and transported to neighbouring countries in many cases.
Steel is recycled in Luxembourg by Arcelor Mittal, whilst aluminium goes to Belgium. Beverage cartons and HDPE (High Density Poly Ethylene) used for plastic bottles and containers go to France.
Aluminium returns as food trays and HDPE as construction pipes. Steel is recycled into use as steal beams in construction and rails for train tracks. Europe recycles more plastic than other any part of the world, some 42%, but sadly that is only 16% of the world’s plastic consumption. Most of it comes from packaging, but a fair bit is contributed by the construction and automobile industries.
You might find your old paper returns as a disposal coffee cup, or your old beverage cartons (the paper element) as recycled toilet paper.
Luxembourg residents each throw away 91kg of food per year. Whilst the catering industry and supermarkets now work to redistribute uneaten items, it’s worth remembering that the collective amount of individual waste is significantly higher than that produced in the hospitality industry.
Foodsharing.lu has several distribution points for unwanted food and you can check their Facebook pages for dates and times when you can collect things such as bread. Items are given out on a first come, first served basis.
You can find out more in our article on Sustainable Luxembourg.
Why don't some things get recycled?
The short answer is that either the technology is not there to do the job, or waste volumes are too low. In a few cases, the ecological costs are too high, in terms of energy required to do the recycling, and of course the price of recycled materials may not be competitive versus the price of raw materials.
You can find more information on waste collection and management in Luxembourg City here, and more about Valorlux here. For local information you should contact your commune if you live outside the city.
Read our articles on Sustainable Luxembourg (food waste initiatives, electric car and bicycle subsidies, regenerative agriculture and recycled furniture) and on Second-hand clothes shops.
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