Catering and food waste sorting obligation: which companies and when?

As of 1 January 2021, certain organisations will be required to collect their catering and food waste in a separate waste container. At the end of 2023, the expansion of the sorting obligation will apply to all companies located in the Flanders. By when must you be compliant? And what exactly is meant by catering and food waste?

As a company, you must sort nearly the same waste streams as at home. If you don’t, you are violating environmental legislation. As of 2021, catering and food waste will also be subject to the company sorting obligation.

What is catering waste and what isn’t?

These waste streams belong in the container for catering and food waste (and therefore not residual waste):

  • peelings, scraps, and surpluses of fruit and vegetables;
  • boiled, fried, etc. food scraps;
  • vegetable, meat, and fish scraps collected with a sieve;
  • coffee grounds;
  • bread (scraps);
  • eggshells;
  • paper towels and paper and cardboard food packaging contaminated by food waste;
  • paper napkins;
  • wilted cut flowers;
  • scraps of meat and fish (such as fat);
  • unpackaged foodstuffs.

These waste streams do not belong in the container for catering and food waste:

  • liquids (e.g. soup, milk, coffee, etc.);
  • sauces, fats, and oils (except dishes containing a small portion of sauce);
  • tea bags and coffee pods;
  • wood treated with paint, varnish, impregnating agent, etc.;
  • bones and animal (slaughter) waste*;
  • animal cadavers*;
  • shells of mussels, oysters, etc.;
  • cat litter and bird cage sand;
  • faeces from large pets or in large quantities;
  • dust from the vacuum cleaner;
  • disposable nappies and other hygiene waste;
  • dirt and sand;
  • cork;
  • ash residue and charcoal;
  • plastic, glass, and metals;
  • coarse prunings and thick branches;
  • cigarette butts;
  • packaged foodstuffs*.

* There are separate collection rounds for these flows. Ask your waste collector.

Which companies are subject to the catering waste and packaged foodstuffs sorting obligation?

As of 31 December 2023, the selective collection of catering and food waste and packaged foodstuffs will apply to all companies. But some organisations must be compliant sooner.

If you serve or prepare hot meals at least once a week and your company or institution belongs to one of the following sectors, the catering and food waste, and packaged foodstuffs will apply as of 1 January 2021:

  • companies and institutions with over 100 employees;
  • educational institutions with over 300 students;
  • hospitals and psychiatric hospitals with over 25 approved beds;
  • residential care centres with a recognised capacity of over 30 beds;
  • correctional facilities;
  • barracks of the armed forces with over 100 employees;
  • restaurants, brasseries, and hotels that serve over 50 meals a day;
  • banquet halls and multipurpose halls with a capacity of over 250 seats;
  • catering companies.

Super- and hypermarkets with a net sales area of at least 400 m² will also be required to collect their catering and food waste, and packaged foodstuffs separately from 2021 onwards.

You can find more information about the how and why of the sorting obligation on the OVAM website.

Do you still have questions about the company sorting obligation? Would you like a screening of the obligations regarding waste within your company?

Contact our environmental experts on +32 11 26 99 92 or