The survey highlights the importance of better awareness about what happens to waste: 1 in 3 people think that residual waste is recycled.
An extensive survey on waste sorting practices in Belgium shows that 96% of people questioned sort their waste ‘often’, or ‘always’. For environmental reasons, and because this is how the waste can be recycled. This explains Belgium’s position as the European leader when it comes to sorting and recycling packaging waste. However, not everyone understands what happens to (packaging) waste and the message about sorting is not always clear – particularly regarding the new types of packaging for the New Blue Bag.
For World Recycling Day on Friday 18 March, Fost Plus conducted an extensive survey on the Belgian population’s waste sorting practices.
When it comes to recycling packaging waste, today Belgium is among the top countries in Europe, thanks to the population’s sorting practices . 96% of people questioned stated that they sorted their waste for recycling ‘often’ or ‘always’ and the over-55s ranked best, with 99% of them stating that they sort their waste ‘often’, while 91% of them ‘always’ sort it. Among the youngest respondents (18-34), 69% ‘always’ sort their waste for recycling.
People sort packaging because they want to do something good for the environment (54%), because they know that materials can be recycled in this way (46%), or through habit (41%). Sorting and recycling gives packaging a second life as a secondary raw material, which reduces the need for new raw materials and cuts CO2 emissions considerably. Thanks to the New Blue Bag, for example, 100,000 additional tonnes of CO2 are saved each year.
A misunderstanding about residual waste
Given that more packaging can now be sorted in the blue bag, 8kg of additional household packaging per inhabitant, per year can be collected (in addition to the 15kg that was already collected). This is great news and it proves that communication regarding the extension of waste sorting has had its effect. Recycling starts with everyday sorting practices: if packaging is not sorted but ends up with residual waste, it will unfortunately be lost forever.
Improvements are certainly still possible: on the one hand, the study shows that the knowledge of what happens to residual waste is still insufficient: no less than 30% of people think that it is recycled, when in fact it is incinerated (with energy recovery). This is probably the reason why, if in doubt about sorting an item, 33% of people questioned throw the packaging in the residual waste, rather than finding out what to do with it, for example via the Recycle! app, the website bettersorting.be or the collection calendar.
Doubts remain for some packaging
In Belgium, we recycle almost all of our packaging, but the survey shows that doubts remain as to which bag some types of waste should be thrown in. For example, doubts remain regarding plastic biscuit packaging (36%), plastic detergent bottles (25%), aluminium lasagne dishes (36%) and metal aerosols (38%). Finally, toothpaste tubes (48%) often end up in the residual waste by mistake – they also belong in the PMC bag.
The ‘Recycling all packaging. Let’s go for it’ campaign
Belgium is definitely on the right track towards total recycling. Fost Plus is determined to collect each bottle, pot, or any other type of packaging. It is only when each item of packaging is sorted that it can be recycled. It’s also in this context that Fost Plus launched a national communication campaign that is currently being broadcast on the radio, on tv but also on social media. The campaign, which will run throughout the year, focuses on the concrete results of packaging recycling, and shows that consumers can make a difference thanks to their sorting efforts.
 Representative external survey commissioned by Fost Plus. Online survey of 2501 Belgians aged 18 and over.