British Delegation Seeks Inspiration from Belgian Recycling Chain


On Friday, 31 March, Fost Plus and Indaver welcomed a British delegation headed by Rebecca Pow, Under-Secretary of State for Environmental Quality and Resilience at the Department for the Environment. She came to see how the recycling chain is organised in Belgium, with a view to setting up a similar system in the United Kingdom. She was assisted during her visit by her team as well as the embassy, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the British Food and Drink Federation.
The delegation was welcomed by Fost Plus as well as by Joachim Quoden from the Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance (EXPRA) and Marc Adams from the Interregional Packaging Commission (IRPC). The meeting at Fost Plus was followed by a visit to the Indaver sorting centre in Willebroek.

The United Kingdom is currently implementing an Extended Producer Responsibility System (EPR). So a delegation came to the Fost Plus offices in search of inspiration from the Belgian system, one of the most efficient in Europe. Various presentations were given to provide them with an as detailed as possible picture of how the recycling chain is organised.

EXPRA began by presenting the different systems to be found in Europe, with their specific features and the key factors for an efficient solution. The IRPC then described how this EPR system was introduced in Belgium for household packaging waste, almost 30 years ago. The Commission also explained the distinction between household and industrial waste and what this meant in the recycling chain. To conclude the presentations, we told them the story of Fost Plus, its structure and the factors behind our success, such as the use of the blue bag to create a collection system that is accessible to everyone.

The day ended with a visit to the Indaver sorting centre to take a practical look, in the field, at how this recycling chain has been set up. This centre is a good example to share as it processes the packaging waste of three million people in Flanders, representing 65,000 tonnes of PMD every year. Indaver is in fact one the five new innovative sorting centres where the sorting line is capable of sorting household packaging in several stages. Backed up by manual quality controls at the end of the process, this facility produces 16 flows of pure materials. This packaging will then be used as valuable secondary raw materials to make new products or packaging. The sorting process residue is taken to another installation where, after intensive sorting, it is transformed into energy sources for non-specialised incinerators such as cement or lime kilns.

The delegation was able to ask various questions throughout the visit. How was the transition from a system run by the authorities to a system run by the producers brought about? What interregional approach was adopted in Belgium – an issue that applies in the United Kingdom as well? What are the advantages of this type of working method? How do you ensure efficient waste collection to successfully run this system?

We hope that our good practices and our advice will have helped our British neighbours to put this system in place more easily in their own country.