Our networking and inspiration event on the topic of the circular economy, ‘Mind the Circularity Gap’, took place on 21 December last year. During the event, we had a chance to discuss the challenges of the circular economy, tools to influence consumer behaviour and the future of digital deposits. A round table was also held with four organisations on packaging and its future development.
Let’s look back at the key moments of the event.
The circularity gap
First of all, Wim Geens, Managing Director of Fost Plus, presented the circularity gap. This is the difference between the quantities of packaging produced and the quantities actually collected and recycled. In order to achieve a fully circular economy, we have to act in every area.
Several solutions are available to close this circularity gap: rules, reuse and innovation. First of all, as regards the rules, it is important to ensure that packaging that is difficult to recycle or cannot be recycled is prohibited. It is also vital to strengthen the sorting inspections at source as well as litter checks. In addition, a call for transparency was launched, since greenwashing still dominates the arguments put forward too much. Secondly, it is worth noting that reusable packaging forms a major lever in the creation of a fully circular economy. Finally, the last solution concerns innovation. This is the cornerstone of economic and sustainable growth. Fost Plus therefore wants to focus on expanding recycling through innovation and a local approach.
Wim Geens stressed our position as a leader on the European market and the importance of cooperating as an ecosystem so as to maintain this position in the future.
From circular thinking to ecosystem thinking
We were fortunate enough to attend a lecture given by Rik Vera, author, futurologist and business philosopher. During this lecture, the author showed us the importance of thinking in terms of an ecosystem. In his view, circular thinking needs to be transformed into ecosystem thinking. This simply involves working together and sharing data with one another.
Changing consumer behaviour
Stephan Van den Broucke, Professor of health psychology at the Université Catholique de Louvain, then explained the nudge theory. Nudging consists of guiding people towards the desired behaviour without putting them under any constraint or prohibiting the opposite behaviour. For example, a certain architecture around a bin will encourage passers-by more to throw in their waste. Combined with other techniques, nudging is a promising approach as it helps facilitate the desired behaviour.
Digital deposits in the fight against litter
To bring the event to a close, Steven Boussemaere, Director of Innovation & Business Development at Fost Plus, told us about the digital deposit strategy. This plan clearly fits with the further steps in the Extended Producer Responsibility and the overall plan against litter. The digital deposit system is one of the five key pillars. But how does it work? Consumers buying a drink pay a packaging deposit in addition to the price of the drink. When they have drunk it, they can then scan the packaging digitally, together with the blue bag at home or the public blue bin on the go. After scanning the packaging, consumers will receive the money in their bank account.
This solution also helps with the fight against litter, as it adds a financial incentive that curbs unsociable behaviour. This should increase the proportion of cans and bottles that are collected for recycling.
This way, we can collect even more bottles and cans, keeping what works well, that is the blue bag, and adding a new, innovative element, that is digital deposits.
What can we take away from this event?
Jan Vander Stichele, chairman of the Board of Directors, summed up the event well:
- Fost Plus has taken the initiative to go further with extended producer responsibility and assume a more social role. The emphasis is placed on all the packaging that we use and throw away, including that which unfortunately ends up as waste. As an organisation, we have expressed our ambition to play a coordinating role in this field. This way, we really close the loop.
- The packaging world is changing all the time and we are increasingly able to combine the various functions that packaging has to fulfil, while limiting its impact on the environment. Prevention plays a major role here, not only in packaging design, but also as a concept. Reusable or rechargeable products will have an important place in shops.
- We can’t do this on our own. 2023 holds out the promise of exciting times. We need all the partners in our packaging chain to make it even more sustainable and circular.
Download the presentations by Professor Van den Broucke and Steven Boussemaere here.
We would like to thank all those who took part in this event. We hope these lectures and discussions inspired you as much as they did us!