Together for a smart deposit return system: second phase of pilot projects


In our ongoing quest to fight litter and promote recycling, Fost Plus is delighted to announce the start of the second series of pilot projects for smart deposit. This initiative is part of our five-pillar approach in our commitment to fight litter.

Why smart deposit?

We all know that waste management is a major challenge, and that’s why we strive to innovate constantly in the search for effective solutions. The three governments in our country recognize the importance of a deposit system to fight litter. Our aim is to step up this effort thanks to a smart digital deposit system. By launching ‘Together for a smart deposit scheme’, the sector and the federations, Fevia and Comeos, along with Fost Plus are laying down the next milestones in testing the system on the ground and, if possible, implement it starting in 2025. A series of tests and pilot projects are therefore under way.

Smart deposit offers many advantages. It is based on a uniquely effective recycling system in Belgium, namely, the blue bag. Thanks to this system, we aim for convenience for citizens when it comes to sorting and collection, while also reducing litter. The vast majority of consumers who already sort their cans or bottles will not have to change their behaviour. This will allow Belgium to maintain its high level of collection and recycling.

Pilot projects under way

We successfully launched the first two pilot projects in May, enabling us to test several key elements of the smart deposit system. This includes unique codes on drinks packaging, the operation of the app, the ease of scanning the unique codes, refunding the deposit and the security of the systems to prevent fraud and protect personal data.

In September, Bobbejaanland and Center Parcs De Haan, as well as some streets, Spar and a few local merchants in Wenduine will test the smart deposit system. This is the second wave of pilot projects at the request of the Flemish Minister for the Environment, Zuhal Demir. In all, around 100,000 residents, visitors and day trippers of all ages and horizons will test the smart deposits. This represents a considerable increase as compared to the first wave of pilot projects, not only in terms of the number of users, drinks containers and collection points, but also as regards the technical complexity. For the first time, prototypes of home scanners will also be deployed, as will the PMD bags for recovery at home and packaging with a unique code printed ‘on-pack’.

The pilot projects are the result of close collaboration with the Flemish government and the OVAM (the Public Waste Agency in Flanders). These projects will enable us to gather valuable data on the effectiveness and conviviality of the smart deposit system in various contexts.

Digitalisation for everyone

We are aware of the importance of digital inclusion in this process. This is why we are working on solutions to bridge the digital gap. At Center Parcs De Haan, for example, visitors will test the scanner prototypes at home in order to make the recovery of drinks packaging accessible to everyone who has no smartphone or internet.

Goal: reducing litter

The ultimate goal of smart deposits is to reduce the presence of bottles and cans in litter, and to improve selective collection. We measure the impact of the system by organising counts of litter on pilot project sites. This will allow us to determine how much packaging for which a deposit is paid is still found in litter and how much is correctly collected and traded in for refund.

The road to travel

We are enthusiastic about the idea of this new stage in our ‘Together for a smart deposit scheme’ project. We are convinced that a smart deposit system is a modern, flexible solution to reduce litter and promote recycling. Thanks to the involvement of everyone, we can keep Belgium as a leader in the collection and recycling of drinks packaging in Europe.

We will continue to work in close collaboration with regional governments, businesses, associations and citizens to achieve this crucial goal.

Key figures

  • The Bobbejaanland pilot project on the weekends of 15-17 September, 22-24 September and 29 September - 1 October.
  • Center Parcs De Haan pilot project continuously from 22 September to 13 October.
  • The Kerkstraat and the sea dike at Wenduine, in collaboration with the Spar store in Wenduine and some local merchants.
  • More than 500 waste bins fitted with a unique code.
  • An estimate of 100,000 people will be impacted during the two pilot projects, representing a sampling of the Belgian population (in terms of age, digital competence, origin, tourists and residents, etc.).
  • 100,000 drink bottles and cans with a unique code, for the first time printed on the packaging as well, distributed through a large number of points of sale (restaurants, supermarkets, vending machines, etc.).
  • 50 chalets fitted with a home scanner.
  • Always and everywhere: PMD bags with a unique code for Spar customers in Wenduine.