Sorting Plastic Packaging, an Essential Link in the Circular Economy


Plastic packaging forms an integral part of our daily lives, particularly in the food industry, which appreciates such packaging as it is practical, sturdy and safe. However, plastic as a material overall is also responsible for many environmental problems. A high-performance recycling chain allows us to make use of the benefits of plastic packaging while ensuring that it has a minimal impact on the environment. The first stage is to sort correctly.

If packaging is not necessary, then of course it should not be used. And yet a lot of packaging is indispensable. It ensures food safety, protects the products during transport, ensures that they are stored in optimal conditions and provides a means of indicating details and information required by law on the products. However, it is important to reduce its impact on the environment as much as possible. Fost Plus has undertaken to provide a recycling solution for all packaging put on the Belgian market, including that made of plastic.

Packaging material with unique properties

As a packaging material, plastic certainly has its merits. The unique properties of plastic are valuable for packaging. It is light and provides the best possible barrier against oxygen, air and water. In addition, plastic often comes out well on top in packaging life cycle analyses. Replacing plastic packaging with packaging in paper, glass or metal often requires more materials to provide the same protection.

Moreover, just like glass, paper and metal, plastic can be recycled on a lasting basis. This recycling is not only absolutely essential from an environmental point of view, but it can also provide major economic gains. Instead of going up in smoke in incinerators, this plastic is transformed into valuable secondary raw materials that create additional activity, jobs and wealth.

So it is vitally important to sort it properly, whether at home in the blue bag, at the office or on the go, so that it can be collected, sorted and recycled. Every item of packaging that escapes the chain, in the residual waste or worse still as litter, is a loss for the circular economy.

Sorting and recycling for new secondary raw materials

Most plastic packaging is perfectly suitable for recycling! Once it has been collected, this plastic household packaging waste is sorted in high-performance sorting centres using various advanced technologies able to separate it into 14 fractions. There are four fully operational sorting centres in Belgium and a fifth is to come on line very shortly. These fractions are then sent to recycling centres to be transformed into new secondary raw materials which in turn will be used to make new, identical packaging or new products.

So proper sorting makes it possible to ensure that this plastic packaging can be recycled, reducing the quantity of raw materials needed in the production chain, safeguarding our natural resources and bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 2020, no less than 51% of our plastic household packaging waste has been recycled. This exceeds the goals set by Europe for 2025!