Smart deposit scheme: first pilot projects start in Flanders
Belgium’s three governments agree that a deposit scheme is essential to spur on the fight against litter. Flemish environment minister Zuhal Demir wants to give an innovative smart digital deposit scheme every chance of success. Such a scheme has been proposed by the companies that put drinks on the market, the federations that represent them and Fost Plus. At the same time, a study is underway in Wallonia that is looking into various deposit schemes, including the digital option. The decisions are to be taken by the end of this year at the latest, among other things on the basis of the pilot project results.
The first two pilot projects are now starting. The technological platform of the consortium consisting of Cegeka, Twintag and Verhaert on the one hand and of Unbox on the other is to be tested in the enclosed environment of the Corda Campus business park in Hasselt and the KBC business park in Leuven. These first pilot projects are focusing on testing the technology used to recover the deposit paid by means of the unique codes on the drinks packaging and the identification of the blue rubbish bins. The pilot projects are to run until the end of June.
Involving local authorities
Meanwhile, talks have started with the local authorities. Four webinars were organised to inform towns and cities, communes and intermunicipal organisations of the entire development path and their specific role in the project. In this context, they are asked about waste collection in public places. That provides an opportunity for them to share their experiences and vision. The results of this survey are to be further processed in work sessions with the local authorities. These will take place in June.
Starting point: keeping the public comfortable
Companies that put packaged products on the market in Belgium have been committed to the fight against litter for years and want to raise the bar even higher. So Comeos, Fevia and Fost Plus drew up a proposal for a smart, digital deposit scheme that builds further on the unique, effective recycling system here in Belgium. First of all, the smart deposit scheme was examined in a feasibility study carried out by the consultancy firm PwC, before being laid down in a roadmap with clear interim goals. All the technical, technological, legal and communication issues were gathered together and worked out in this roadmap. This includes the unique codes or the platforms on which the system has to run. The feasibility study showed that a digital deposit scheme like this is the best way to actually tackle litter and maintain the comfort of the blue bag for the public. This innovative system means that the vast majority of consumers, who have been putting their cans and bottles neatly in the blue bag for 25 years, do not have to change their habits, so Belgium can maintain its high collection and recycling rates.
At the start of February, OVAM launched a specific call for Flemish pilot projects at the request of Minister Demir. In order to monitor these pilot projects, a steering group and an advisory panel were set up in Flanders. From among the fourteen parties that responded to this call for projects, three companies were selected. The steering group eventually chose two concrete pilot projects. A test protocol has now been drawn up for the next phase, in a semi-open environment.
A study is underway in Wallonia with the cooperation of Fost Plus. This study, led by the RDC research firm, is looking into the various deposit options in Belgium. The first results are expected in July. The Walloon study will make maximum use of the results from the Flemish pilot projects. The two paths in the two Regions are coordinating with one another. The Walloon Region is included in the advisory panel for the Flemish pilot procedure and OVAM is a member of the steering group for the Walloon deposit scheme study. The Brussels Region is monitoring the activities through its participation in the steering group for the Wallonia study and the advisory panel in Flanders.
Less litter and more recycling
As part of an integrated approach to litter, a smart deposit scheme can keep Belgium among the leaders in Europe as regards the collection and recycling of drinks packaging. The PwC study indicates that it is the most effective way of recovering the packaging that still ends up as litter or in the residual waste for recycling, and the way that is easiest for consumers. After all, every home, every blue bag and every public (blue) rubbish bin is a collection point for deposit bottles and cans.
The smart deposit scheme is a flexible, modern solution linked to contemporary consumption trends out of home, which means that we are setting the trend in the fight against litter, as well.
More information and context can be found on our project page - Every Packaging Counts.