Packaged products are rarely marketed in a single country, but often exists in a European context. It is therefore quite a challenge for companies to ensure that their packaging meets the necessary collection and recycling guidelines in each country. To this end, the Netherlands and Belgium are working together and assisting companies to develop more sustainable packaging with a view to recycling in both countries. During the webinar of 2 December, 'Sustainable packaging beyond borders', Fost Plus and KIDV discussed the similarities and differences in the collection and recycling systems for household packaging in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The cooperation between, the KIDV ( the Netherlands Institute for Sustainable Packaging) and Fost Plus gave rise to the idea of taking a close look at the systems in both countries and identifying the differences and similarities. After all, many packaging companies are active in both countries and want to make their packaging more sustainable. The webinar revealed that the Belgian and Dutch systems have many similarities, allowing for even greater cooperation between the two countries, particularly in terms of design guidelines for more recyclable packaging. The aim is to achieve greater harmonisation within the international packaging chain.
The waste phase and recycling of packaging are part of Extended Producer Responsibility. In our country, Fost Plus has been responsible for the management of household packaging and Valipac is responsible for the management of industrial packaging. In the Netherlands, producer responsibility for both types of packaging is fulfilled by the Afvalfonds Verpakkingen, whose members include the KIDV and Nedvang.
In 2020, Fost Plus recycled 94.9% of the household packaging put on the market. Belgium thus achieved high recycling rates for the various material flows, including plastic packaging: 51%, 5 years ahead of the targets set by Europe (50% recycling of household plastic packaging by 2025). These very good figures are the result of the extending of the sorting message for plastic packaging and the further development of the recycling chain.
Mik Van Gaever, COO of Fost Plus, says: “Thanks to the introduction of the New Blue Bag in which consumers can sort almost all plastic household packaging, the amount of PMD collected per person per year has increased from 15 to 23 kg. The contents of the New Blue Bag are then sorted into 14 material fractions for sustainable recycling; in Belgium and neighbouring countries including the Netherlands.”
Our neighbours to the north also manage to achieve excellent results with regard to recycling (82% in 2020) over a lower number of sorted fractions (12).
Similarities: focus on sustainable design for packaging
The recyclability of packaging launched onto the market is essential. In the Netherlands and in Belgium, an eco-modulation system is used. This means that companies are encouraged financially to choose packaging that is compatible with the current sorting and recycling chain. In the Netherlands this is calculated via the waste management fee; in Belgium it is via the Green Dot.
Fost Plus and the KIDV help and advice their members on packaging innovation. Design4Recycling is applied differently in both countries. In Belgium, Fost Plus works with Design4Recycling guidelines and guides companies to use (better) recyclable packaging. In the Netherlands, the KIDV has developed so-called “Recyclechecks” to verify, by means of a simple 'yes' or 'no', whether the packaging meets the predefined criteria for recycling or not.
Differences: whether or not there is a uniform collection system for PMD
There are other elements of the waste management system that differ in the Netherlands and Belgium. In both countries, consumers sort PMD but they do so differently. In Belgium, Fost Plus cooperates closely with regional and local authorities, so that there is one single collection system throughout the country with uniform sorting rules for PMD, unlike in the Netherlands where each municipality has its own collection policy. Several collection and sorting systems co-exist. Sorting takes place at home (sorting at the source) but some Dutch municipalities opt for post-sorting of PMD from residual waste.
Towards more uniformity
Karen Van de Stadt, Packaging Expert for KIDV, points out, that “there are sufficient similarities to offer opportunities for increased cooperation and harmonisation, such as in the packaging design guidelines and the tools we use to achieve this”.
And Chris Bruijnes, CEO of the KIDV, adds that "in time, we want to expand the knowledge base that the Netherlands and Belgium have developed to other European countries. For us, it is a stimulus to start working on new commercial cases in the chain, so that producers and sorters/recyclers can come up with good innovations together."
Steven Boussemaere, Director Innovation & Business Development at Fost Plus, concludes: “We want to increase the collaboration between our two organisations and see where we can harmonise our systems. It is also important to know where the differences lie in order to make appropriate choices while keeping these differences in mind and taking into account the benefits for the members of Fost Plus and Afvalfonds verpakkingen “.
Watch the webinar here.