Top five questions about packaging recyclability
Fost Plus had a stand at the Empack packaging fair on 14 and 15 September. Our Sustainable Packaging Manager, Annemarie Abbeel, presented the Fost Plus Design4Recycling guidelines during the live seminar ‘Circular food packaging seen from various perspectives’ together with Fevia, Valipac, Pack4Food and Flanders Food. Companies could also come to our stand for personal advice on the recyclability of their packaging, bearing in mind the current collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure and processes in Belgium. Five questions came up most frequently.
Annemarie Abbeel: “The packaging companies share a common ambition: to find a recycling solution for all household packaging by 2025. That deadline is fast approaching and we can see that there is still a lot of work to be done. We are delighted about the huge interest shown in the seminar and the fact that companies come to Fost Plus for help with their packaging strategy.”
Top five questions about packaging:
1. Can black trays be recycled in Belgium?
No. We definitely advise against using black trays for meat, fish or cold meats, for example. They cannot be detected by the NIR detectors in the sorting centres. So most of these trays end up in the residual waste that is incinerated.
TIP: Choose transparent materials or light colours. Not only are they easier to recognise, but dark colours may discolour the recyclate, which could limit the applications.
2. Is polystyrene a good material to choose?
Yes. The choice of material depends on a number of factors. From the point of view of recycling, polystyrene is a valid choice. The five sorting centres in Belgium sort polystyrene in a separate material flow for recycling. At the moment, polystyrene is mainly recycled by our partners in Germany, but we are looking at opportunities to bring this recycling to Belgium.
TIP: XPS packaging can be put with the PMD as well. This material flow is sorted with PS.
3. Can we use polypropylene or polyethylene for our outer packaging films?
Yes. Films larger than 4 x 4 cm are sorted in a ‘PE films’ flow and an ‘other films’ flow consisting mainly of PP. Both material flows are recycled in Belgium.
TIP: Did you know that PE films are recycled to provide raw materials for use in new films? The new Ecoo Beringen recycling plant recycles film-to-film.
4. Can opaque PET packaging be recycled in Belgium?
Yes and no. As of 1 January 2023, opaque PET bottles will be sorted as a separate material flow for recycling. Earlier this year, we concluded a contract for the construction of a new recycling plant in Neufchâteau, which will recycle complex PET packaging, including opaque PET bottles. Until it is operational, the material flow is recycled at our partners in neighbouring countries. Opaque trays and pots are not being sorted with this flow at the moment.
TIP: Adhesives and inks can disrupt the recycling process. We advise you to keep the quantity of adhesive to a minimum and give preference to water-soluble adhesives. As regards ink, here again bright colours should be avoided.
5. Is it a good idea to combine cardboard and plastic in packaging?
That depends. We advise against putting multilayered packaging on the market when the materials cannot be easily separated from one another. If multilayered packaging is necessary or preferred after all, you should make it as easy as possible for consumers to sort the two components correctly.
TIP: Our Design4Recycling guidelines include interesting examples of how you can improve on-pack communication for consumers.
We also had a lot of questions about specific applications. If you have questions like this or would like customised advice, please contact D4R@fostplus.be. Our Design4Recycling guidelines provide general information about recyclability.