Belgium has long been acknowledged as a pioneer in the circular economy, something that is borne out by the success of its household packaging recycling system. The introduction of the New Blue Bag played a vital role in this process, in particular by collecting almost 23 kilos of PMD per person per year in 2022. This achievement proves the importance of a simple sorting message and an accessible collection system.
Easy and accessible: the key to success
The ease and accessibility of this system lie at the heart of the successful collection, sorting and finally recycling of household packaging in Belgium. By putting in place a door-to-door PMD collection system, Belgium manages to recover as much packaging waste as possible, at the source: directly from people’s homes.
The New Blue Bag has further widened the scope of application by including all plastic packaging, rather than just bottles and containers. The sorting message has been made even simpler: all packaging that previously caused doubts is now accepted. As a result, a further 90,000 tonnes of materials have been integrated into the circular economy.
This twofold approach has boosted the collection of PMD and significantly increased packaging recycling levels, thereby strengthening Belgium’s position as regards sustainable development.
Target achieved: a major step
Having been used by all Belgians for one full year, the New Blue Bag has yielded promising results. As the last intermunicipal organisation switched to the new system at the end of 2021, the 2022 collection results provide a clear view of the actual return recorded. The target of 23 kg of packaging waste collected per person and per year was achieved from the first full year. This result not only highlights the effectiveness of the system, but also inspires confidence for future improvements.
Sights set on expansion
While achieving the 23-kg target is definitely a reason to be pleased, it does not mean that Fost Plus and Belgium are resting on their laurels. The aim has always been to expand the contents of the blue bag by incorporating new sustainable recycling solutions for various products and packaging. Belgium has already made progress by authorising all aerosols (with the exception of hazardous household waste) from the start of 2022. In addition, as of 1 January 2023, aluminium and plastic capsules used for coffee and other drinks have been included in the system. This should make it possible to collect a further 4,500 tonnes of recyclable materials. The contents of New Blue Bag can be further expanded in the coming years.
The challenge now lies in the way in which consumer trends are developing. We are using and discarding more packaging out of home - at work, at the gym, on the go, etc. So the question remains: how can we make sorting easier here, too? Each type of setting needs a different approach. But they all have one thing in common: sorting must be easy and as similar as possible to the method used at home.