Digitalisation and cooperation as weapons in the fight against litter

 

Fost Plus responds to the announcement of the introduction of a deposit system in Flanders  (De Tafel van Vier 06.09.2022)

 

Litter is a thorn in everyone’s side, including companies that find their packaging on the street and in the countryside. Clearly, despite all the efforts that are already being made, we have so far failed to bring litter sufficiently under control. More will be needed to achieve a lasting change in behaviour. So Fost Plus, Fevia and Comeos have put forward a proposal to the competent ministers in the three regions, setting out an integrated plan for the fight against litter. The digital deposit system is one of the five pillars. 

‘Every Packaging Counts’ is a forward-looking action plan that Fost Plus, Fevia and Comeos have been discussing with policy makers and other relevant partners for some time now. Although not all the details of this action plan have been finalised as yet, the packaging companies are clearly determined to do everything possible to ensure that all packaging that comes onto the market can be recycled.

 

The proposal consists of five complementary pillars backed up by smart communication. 

  1. The blue bag remains the cornerstone. With this unique and efficient system for consumption (at home), we offer consumers an accessible solution to sort all PMD packaging. 
  2. Preventing packaging is crucial, so that there are fewer opportunities for litter. So new business models involving reusable packaging or that do not use packaging are being looked into. 
  3. The European Single Use Plastics Directive states that as of 1 January 2023, companies that put packaging on the market have to bear the costs related to the litter generated by their products. Taking Extended Producer Responsibility a step further in this way offers an opportunity to tackle litter more effectively and (cost-) efficiently. Policy remains a matter for government, of course, but giving Fost Plus a coordinating role as the sole (and familiar) point of contact for companies, regions and local authorities creates economies of scale and allows both knowledge and best practices to be shared. 
  4. We are looking at how, by means of a digital deposit system, we can collect even more (drinks) packaging using flexible, innovative methods. Every item of packaging bears a unique code that is activated in the store. When consumers throw the drinks can or bottle in the PMD bag at home or in the (correct) bin out of home, their deposit is returned to them. The digital deposit system differs from conventional solutions as the blue bag remains the main collection channel and it offers a solution, regardless of where the packaging comes up. 
  5. As litter is in fact the result of a mindset problem, we are tackling the change in behaviour by means of a reward mechanism. We are therefore continuing to focus on the Click. Those who dispose properly of packaging when eating or drinking on the go, or who pick up litter and throw it in the correct bin receive Circular UCoins or digital points in return. Seven cities and communes are already active Click partners, as are a number of big companies. Together they have recorded 185,000 clicks. The aim is to roll out the Click across the whole country.

We already collect 95% of all plastic drinks bottles to be recycled. To close the gap even further, we all have to dare to look at innovative solutions. The packaging companies have therefore worked on a total plan. The digital deposit system is one of strings to our bow. The big advantage for consumers is that it offers a solution regardless of where the packaging comes up. However, litter is more than bottles and cans and more than packaging. So it is important to take action on several fronts and thus bring about a lasting change in behaviour.