Case study

Results of the pilot project at Colruyt Group


Extended PMD rules in companies ensures better quality of sorted materials.

Since 1 April, the extended PMD collection that citizens are familiar with at home thanks to the New Blue Bag is into force in all companies. This means that from now on, in addition to the usual bottles and flasks, virtually all plastic household packaging can be included in the PMD waste. In the run-up to this introduction, Fost Plus, waste operator Vanheede and Colruyt Group organised a pilot project in the Colruyt Group administrative buildings and stores. After one year, the quality of the PMD waste collected improved by 15%, because as well as the new fractions that are now permitted, the ‘standard’ PMD also improved.

Sorting behaviour at work

“The composition of the extended PMD flow in a corporate context was still a major unknown for us”, says Greet Hofman, project leader at Fost Plus. “The pilot project at Colruyt allowed us to chart it. We also gained some important insights into sorting behaviour at work.”

Between March 2020 and February 2021, the staff in the Colruyt Group administrative buildings and stores were able to put more household packaging in the PMD waste. The new packaging types account for around 10% of the waste collected. That is good news for the circular economy. This way, the materials are kept in the chain as secondary raw materials to make new products or packaging.

“Our staff warmly welcomed the new sorting message”, confirms Jan Vermoesen, environmental coordinator at Colruyt Group. “Now that the New Blue Bag has become established in more and more families, it seems only logical that you can sort in the same way at home and at work. With new posters, our newsletter and a video that we show in the offices, among other things, we were able to reach everyone despite the difficulties linked to COVID-19.”

The store car parks, where consumers leave packaging and other waste, were not included in the pilot project. “We would risk confusing citizens, because the new sorting message did not yet apply all over the country”, says Greet Hofman.

The results of the pilot project are positive across the board. Apart from the packing that used to be residual and now belongs with the PMD, we note an additional 65% fall in residual waste, which means that the PMD collected is now 80 to 90% pure.

Less non-empty packaging

The results of the pilot project are positive across the board. Apart from the packing that used to be residual and now belongs with the PMD, we note an additional 65% fall in residual waste, which means that the PMD collected is now 80 to 90% pure. The striking thing, above all, is that less non-empty packaging is put in the blue bags. Bottles and cans that still contain water or soft drinks should first be emptied before you throw them away with the PMD waste.

Luc Gevaert, Production Supervisor at Vanheede: “We do more than just collecting the PMD at Colruyt. We have our own sorting installation. This dream scenario is what made the pilot project possible. We noticed after sorting an improvement of the quality by 15%.”

“Of course, the share of plastic packaging waste at work apart from bottles and cans is smaller than at home, where we throw away trays, film and bags. The improvement in quality can mainly be attributed to the extra communication. After all, not only have we drawn attention to the new sorting rules, but we have also reminded the Colruyt staff of the existing rules. That underlines the importance of regular repetition. Companies find information and can order specific communication material for this via and”, Greet Hofman concludes.

Companies generate other, specific waste as well. “That was an important lesson. The specific environment in which we work means that there is a lot of sizeable industrial packaging around palettes and so on. Our colleagues did not always distinguish properly between the industrial films that are collected separately from the PMD for recycling, and the small household bags that can be put with the PMD”, says Jan Vermoesen. This problem was soon overcome with appropriate communication. An insight that Fost Plus is including in the campaign, incidentally.

Sorting obligation

All organisations are required to sort their waste flows. Including PMD. To do this, they can enter into a contract with a private waste operator, such as Vanheede for Colruyt Group. Companies that start sorting PMD are entitled to a start-up grant of EUR 75.

Fost Plus is responsible for the household packaging waste recycling chain. PMD collected at home or at work is sent to one of five high-tech sorting centres scattered throughout the country. There it is sorted per type of material for recycling. By recycling, we avoid using new raw materials and we save transport and energy. So sorting properly at home and at work makes a concrete contribution to a better world.