As of 1 January 2023, companies that put packaged products on the market will have to bear the cost of litter resulting from their packaging. This is a further step in the Extended Producer Responsibility as established at European level. The amount involved and how the Belgian government will collect this has yet to be determined. An overview of the current situation.
In the early 1990s, the Swedish professor Thomas Lindqvist drew up a strategy that makes the producer responsible for the entire life cycle of a product, paying particular attention to returning, recycling and final processing. Extended Producer Responsibility was born. It was for this purpose that Fost Plus was set up: to implement Extended Producer Responsibility for household packaging. In practical terms, producers pay the costs linked to the selective collection, sorting and recycling of their household packaging. These costs are collected via the Green Dot, which is calculated on the basis of the type of packaging material and the quantity that they put on the market on the one hand and any revenue earned from this material through the recycling chain on the other.
The European Single Use Plastics Directive stipulates that as of 2023, producers will also be responsible for the cost of litter resulting from their products, as well as for rubbish in public litter bins. What do we know today?
- Who pays what? The exact distribution key for the cost of litter, including the materials that cannot be attributed to a particular sector, such as dog dirt and organic waste, has not yet been defined. In Flanders, the OVAM (public waste agency) undertook a fraction count. In Wallonia, Comase (business consulting and services) conducted a similar study on behalf of the Département du Sol et des Déchets (department responsible for the ground and for waste). These results are to be used to determine the share of the costs for each product group to be found in litter. This includes packaging. The initial results of the litter composition analyses confirm that it accounts for a significant proportion. The fight against litter is a shared responsibility, and commerce and industry have to play their (financial) role here as well.
- How is this amount collected? This, too, has yet to be established. The (additional) mechanisms to be deployed for this and therefore the organisation that is to undertake the coordination still have to be determined. The three regions are holding negotiations on the operational framework and want to conclude a new interregional cooperation agreement for this.
- Who is responsible for picking up litter at the moment? Public cleanliness is a local competence. So the towns, cities and communes keep the streets and parks clean and bear the costs of doing so. However, litter is an umbrella term for products, and packaging accounts for a visible share of this. Companies that put packaged products on the market picked up the gauntlet years ago. Via the regional cooperation agreements, Mooimakers in Flanders, BeWaPP in Wallonia and the cooperation with Net Brussel/Bruxelles-Propreté and Leefmilieu Brussel/Bruxelles Environnement, they contribute € 16 million per year to communication, awareness raising and activation. Expanding the Extended Producer Responsibility will have a considerable financial impact. In addition, this also applies for other sectors whose products end up as litter, such as cigarette butts, balloons, chewing gum or wet wipes.
- What role does Fost Plus play? Fost Plus is currently responsible for the organisation and funding of the recycling chain for household packaging. Fost Plus aims to offer a recycling solution for all packaging put on the market, including packaging that still escapes the chain at the moment – via residual waste or, worse still, as litter. Fost Plus plans to use the levers in the existing system to take on this coordinating role for litter management, as well. This will allow us to recycle all packaging, wherever it is found.
- How do we bring about a litter-free world together? First and foremost, litter is a behavioural problem that annoys us all. So in order to ban litter from the streets permanently, we need an integrated approach whereby each party takes on its responsibilities – including the government via targeted enforcement.
Fost Plus would like to hold discussions with the regions on the terms and procedures for expanding the Extended Producer Responsibility. Keep an eye on our website for updates.