To meet the aims of the Green Deal, Europe is implementing major changes to the way in which packaging is produced and to its end-of-life story. Recycling is no longer the holy grail. Besides a clear focus on packaging prevention, new business models based on reuse are gaining the upper hand. What does this mean for Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs), organisations like Fost Plus that manage the recycling chain in the name and on behalf of the packaging industry? Fost Plus managing director Wim Geens sees challenges but above all opportunities. “The changes in the European context dovetail perfectly with our broader ambitions.”
Fost Plus was established in 1994 to provide a collective solution for the packaging companies. Setting up a uniform system for collecting, sorting and taking their packaging for recycling brought about efficiency gains. This led to the development of an innovative recycling chain, including solutions for more complicated packaging materials. Such as polystyrene or opaque PET, for example. These are niche materials when it comes to recycling. Many other markets do not (yet) collect them separately or don’t know what to do with them. “We have made a point of seeking – and finding – a solution to all forms of packaging on the market. But the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation compels companies to look carefully at their packaging model. After all, we are not going to resolve the worldwide plastic pollution with recycling alone.”
The opportunities lie precisely in this experience of the operational organisation of the recycling chain. “We go a lot further now than 30 years ago. Back then, selective collection was something that you did at home. Today, together with all the partners in the chain, we seek effective solutions to recover all packaging, including out of home.” Making life easier for the public is always central to this. An efficient recycling chain brings peace of mind, knowing that carefully sorted packaging is actually recycled to make new raw materials.
The focus now is shifting more and more from packaging to materials. “Prevention means that no waste is generated to begin with and no raw materials – primary or secondary – are needed. Reuse keeps materials in circulation longer. And at the end of their life cycle, we will recycle them anyway. But there will always be cases where single-use packaging remains necessary. And then this high-performance recycling chain remains necessary, too.”
It is a social role that PROs like Fost Plus are willing and able to fulfil. For the companies that will organise their packaging system differently. For members of the public who will deal with their used packaging another way. “It will be a stretch. That much is clear. The ambitions have never been so great. The stakes have never been higher, either. But the high-performance chain that we have set up provides the perfect basis on which to build further. What’s on the table today will require a change of mindset among both companies and the public. PROs like Fost Plus have an important role to play to facilitate this turnaround and to take on a broad, new social role. We’re ready for it.”