The mental ‘click’ in litter prevention

The mental ‘click’ in litter prevention

The coastal commune of De Haan is the first testing ground for the new city cleaning project called the Click. With this project, Fost Plus aims to eliminate litter from the streets and collect more packaging waste for recycling at the same time. But why is litter such a stubborn problem and how does the Click make a difference?

Litter is a widespread and complex problem. It is estimated that around 2.77 kg of litter per inhabitant per year end up in the environment and on our streets. It costs Flemish communes millions of euros every year to clean it up. At the same time, litter and rubbish left lying around are at the top of the list of things that annoy us. That seems contradictory: if it upsets us so much, why do we leave waste behind in the first place? Although we generally sort properly at home, when we are out and about we want to get rid of our waste as quickly as possible. That can be seen from the type of litter in the streets. Whereas six months ago we hardly ever saw a face mask lying around in the street, they now account for a very visible fraction of litter.

Moving more quickly towards a general change of attitude

Clearly then, to tackle litter efficiently and effectively, a general change of attitude is necessary. Everyone has a responsibility for this: members of the public, the government and the producers. The latter have set themselves ambitious goals: a fall of no less than 20% in litter by the end of 2022 in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. A raft of great initiatives are already under way to achieve this, not least thanks to Mooimakers in Flanders, BeWapp in Wallonia and BrusselNet in Brussels. These litter units came into being under the impetus of Fevia, Comeos and Fost Plus. They are having results, but progress is slow.

And then came The Click. Fost Plus launched this city cleaning project as the missing link in its strategy to double the collection of packaging waste outside the home by 2023. The Click serves to complement all the existing initiatives. The Click is designed to ban litter from the street scene on the one hand and collect more packaging thanks to new logistics processes and infrastructure on the other.

Not done

The Click operates on the basis of an app. You can scan all the waste that you pick up or throw away in the right litter bin with your smartphone. This entitles you to save Circular UCoins that can be exchanged for an advantage at local merchants. This way, every individual can “click” anywhere at any time. This is what makes The Click different from other initiatives, which often call on groups or organised activities. It creates a movement in which throwing waste down in the street is absolutely not done. By clicking and being thanked for this positive action in the form of Circular UCoins, we add a playful aspect (gamification) to picking up litter and sorting packaging waste.

Presorting street litter bins

At home we sort our PMD in the blue bag. Outside the home, in certain contexts double waste islands are provided that also enable us to do this. These are often clearly demarcated environments such as railway stations, sports clubs or the beach. However, it must be noted that selectively collected waste outside the home is not of the same high quality as at home. At home, the blue bag contains on average 15% of sorting errors. In the intermunicipal companies where the New Blue Bag has already been introduced, and which can therefore sort all plastic household packaging waste, the error level is just 5%.

However, this does not mean that litter bins in the street do not contain valuable packaging material. We need to look at other ways of collecting this material so that it can be recycled. Presorting is one of the possibilities that is currently being tested in a pilot project. This is happening in cooperation with the waste operator Renewi.

In De Haan, where The Click has been launched, the contents of street litter bins are taken to a special presorting centre in Bruges. Here packaging is separated from the rest of the waste. This packaging then follows the usual route to the PMD sorting centre, where it is sorted into various fractions. Finally, each separate fraction heads off to the recycling centre. Watch the video about the four stages of plastic recycling here.

The test in De Haan is running until September 2021. So the results will follow. In the meantime, the litter bins in the streets of De Haan have been strikingly decorated to encourage as many people as possible to throw their waste away properly. Clearly, The Click is taking over as a movement on the streets of De Haan!

Circular economy for packaging

The Click will give a huge boost to the achievement of a circular economy for packaging. Not only by pointing out to people that waste includes valuable raw materials, but also by making it possible to collect more packaging for recycling.

For more information about The Click, visit the website