Case study

Smooth introduction of a sorting project in a hospital environment


Sorting at home has been going extremely well, but there is still work to be done when it comes to the out-of-home aspect. Fost Plus is launching projects in specific places, in particular in hospitals. An initial pilot project took place at the “Centre Hospitalier Régional Verviers East Belgium” (CHRV). 

Sorting at home has been going extremely well for years, but there is still work to be done when it comes to the out-of-home aspect. By sorting packaging waste correctly everywhere, we give materials a second life thanks to recycling. With this aim in mind, Fost Plus is launching projects in specific places, in particular in hospitals. An initial pilot project took place at the “Centre Hospitalier Régional Verviers East Belgium” (CHRV). It proved a great success: from now on, six tonnes of PMD will be collected every year, and the hospital’s PMD contains just 12% of rejected materials.

Even today, many organisations do not necessarily sort household waste, or not as well as they might. For this reason, large quantities of perfectly recyclable packaging inadvertently end up in the residual waste. In fact, around 20,000 tonnes of PMD still have to be collected every year. Hospitals are an example of places where large quantities of PMD are found. Visitors, patients and staff all use and throw away their packaging here. This is why Fost Plus is assisting the CHR Verviers East Belgium to put in place, or even improve its sorting project. In the words of François Godfirnon, coordinator of the sorting project and prevention adviser at CHR Verviers East Belgium: ‘Fost Plus’s aid was instrumental. The advice they gave us, especially regarding logistics, enabled us to move forward.’

88% of PMD sorted correctly

In March 2020, the CHR Verviers East Belgium launched a brand-new sorting project with the support of Fost Plus. Our organisation supported this project by providing advice and supplying sorting islands and other types of bins, as well as information and communication material. Despite the exceptional context in the hospital environment linked to COVID-19, the project has proved a great success. In fact, 88% of the PMD collected is sorted correctly. This is an exceptional figure for a public place, where the level of sorting errors in the PMD waste is usually close to 50%.

Organisations are obliged by law to sort PMD

When the pilot project first began, the hospital started from scratch as regards sorting PMD. ‘The hospital wanted to introduce this sorting project into its environmental policy gradually. We already have selective collection contracts for many types of waste specific to hospitals, such as medical or infectious waste. The aim was to integrate the collection of PMD from patients, visitors, colleagues and staff into this.’

In fact, a significant amount of hospital waste belongs in the PMD fraction. This mainly consists of drinks bottles, cans and cartons, but also includes cleaning product packaging and soap containers. By introducing the selective collection of PMD, the hospital is fulfilling the sorting obligations required by law of all Belgian companies.

The approach: relying on the human aspect

To successfully implement this project, the institution counted on everyone taking part. On the one hand, it involved the internal staff, by explaining the concept of waste sorting in companies and checking the condition of the waste collected. In addition, colleagues analysed the bins with a view to improving the sorting quality. They went into the various offices to increase awareness among all the staff and build support for the project.

As the project manager says: ‘Explaining the importance of sorting to our colleagues made them feel involved. So they became ambassadors for the project. Relying on the human aspect allows long-term sorting of good quality.’

On the other hand, the hospital worked with hospital stewards. These people encouraged the various external target groups (visitors and patients) and helped them to sort PMD correctly.

More support options to extend collection

Areas where large numbers of people gather remain a focus of attention. As the hospital is a public space, visitors go in to throw away their packaging or have a coffee in the cafeteria. Plastic cups are a permanent feature of busy places like this. Thanks to the extension of the sorting rules for plastic packaging in the blue bag, these cups are now authorised in the PMD fraction. Since 1 April, hospitals, like other businesses or organisations, have been able to sort more plastic household packaging as PMD.

In hospitals, as elsewhere, questions arise concerning two other types of waste: masks and gloves. Although often put in PMD bins, they should in fact be thrown away with the residual rubbish. Such unauthorised items disrupt proper sorting and result in the bin being downgraded. It is important to have bins intended for this specific waste, bins that the hospital has installed, leading to a very good result in terms of its PMD sorting.

Three lessons for a successful sorting project in hospitals:

  1. This sorting project was introduced gradually and as smoothly as possible into a wider environmental policy.
  2. Once launched, it was important that all the target groups at the hospital, both internal and external, took part. By acting at every level, with an appropriate approach and communication, the CHRV managed to collect a maximum amount of recyclable waste.
  3. Adapted logistics are fundamental to ensuring sorting quality. To prevent incorrectly placed items in the PMD waste, the hospital installed bins suited to such waste.