As of Friday, 1 October, a uniform sorting system will apply for household packaging throughout Belgium. This generalised approach will further enhance the high level of participation, as 91% of Belgians say they sort at home.
Thanks to the uniform sorting instructions and the implementation of efficient door-to-door collection, sorting at home lays the foundations for the success of the Belgian recycling system. It guarantees excellent recycling figures, placing Belgium among the leaders in this field in European countries. In 2020, Fost Plus recycled almost 95% of household packaging waste, including 51% of plastic packaging – a record.
The New Blue Bag, which can now be used for a wider range of packaging than before, is part of this success since it ensures quality recycling. However, the entire chain is responding to ambitious goals, with new sorting centres, higher performance technology and new recycling channels.
A long-term strategy
As everyone sorts in the same way, a stable flow of materials is created. This guaranteed volume has given rise to the establishment of five new sorting centres that together will sort about 260,000 tons of PMD annually. Three of them are already operational. They sort the contents of the New Blue Bag according to identical specifications. This involves 14 separate fractions, including as many as 10 different plastic fractions. The recycling market therefore has access to material flows of very high quality, which in turn enables high-quality recycling, including bottle-to-bottle and food-grade applications.
In addition to the need to attract the required recycling capacity in Belgium, new recycling channels also had to be created for materials for which specific channels have not yet been established. Let us take for example PET trays or polystyrene packaging such as yoghurt pots which are not yet recycled on a large scale. In 2020, three new contracts were awarded for the construction of recycling facilities on Belgian soil, with two more to follow this year.
Public and private partners have invested considerable amounts in these new sorting and recycling centres in Belgium, creating at least 500 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs. This represents an investment of one billion euros in the local circular economy. It is now important to continue along this path and thus allow the investments to bear fruit for the local economy.
The extension and standardisation of the household packaging sorting instructions to include all households are clearly the key to success as we move towards the circular economy.