Over 805.000 tonnes of packaging came into the Belgium market in 2020 and of this, 94.9% was recycled. So the recycling figures for household packaging waste rose for the fifth year in a row. This is primarily due to the extension of the sorting message for plastic packaging. Thanks to the New Blue Bag, we collect an average of 8 kg more PMD per person for recycling. That takes the recycling level for plastic packaging up to 51%, five years before the European goal for 50%. We are also recycling more and more packaging here in our own country.
Belgium outclasses Europe in recycling plastic thanks to the further roll-out of the New Blue Bag
“Belgium is the European leader in the recycling of household packaging”, says Patrick Laevers, managing director of Fost Plus, which is responsible for the household packaging recycling chain. “Thanks to uniform systems and a simple sorting message, nowhere is more packaging waste collected than in this country. And we also take care of the actual recycling. In addition, by bringing as much of this recycling as possible to Belgium, we guarantee the availability of high-quality recyclate for the local production industry. So we are building local circular economy for packaging.”
More PMD and glass recycled
In 2020, we recycled 32.2 kg of glass, 16.9 kg of paper and cardboard packaging and 15.8 kg of PMD per person. So the number of tonnes of recycled glass and plastic packaging rose compared with 2019, while the recycling of paper and cardboard packaging remained more or less stable. The recycling percentage for plastic packaging rose from 46% in 2019 to 51% in 2020. That means we have achieved important objectives set by the industry and the commerce in 2018. It is worth pointing out that Europe has set 2025 as the goal for recycling 50% of plastic.
“In 2020, the extended plastic collection came into effect for another 900,000 people, bringing the total to 4.1 million in 14 intermunicipal organisations. So a considerable quantity of extra packaging material is selectively collected for recycling. In addition, the intermunicipal organisations that have been using the New Blue Bag for some time have now reached cruising speed. The average collection yield via the New Blue Bag is 8 kg per person higher than in the intermunicipal organisations that do not yet use the New Blue Bag.”
Additional 3.000 tonnes of PMD collected out of home, despite lockdown
Although our ‘out-of-home’ activities were limited, in 2020 we reached another milestone in collecting outside the home. The goal was to virtually double the share of PMD collected outside the home between 2018 and 2023 to 26.000 tonnes. In 2020, we reached 19,000 tonnes, or an additional 3.000 tonnes compared with the year before. This was mainly PMD that was collected in companies.
“Most PMD is in households. Just 10% of PMD comes from out-of-home consumption, most of which is at our workplace. That is logical, because – under normal circumstances – this is where we spend a large part of our time. Despite the obligation to sort, around 20,000 tonnes of PMD disappear in the mixed industrial waste every year. We have launched a counter-offensive with targeted actions and communication. Successfully, it would appear.”
In 2020, 1.247 companies received a grant for starting up a PMD sorting process. This start-up grant is to carry on in 2021 as part of a recruitment campaign on extending the sorting message for companies and organisations. In addition, in 2020 we set up specific projects with ‘staycation’ locations such as amusement parks, zoos and holiday villages to improve the quality of the materials collected there. Attention focused among other things on multilingual communication and the correct sorting of face masks, which should be put in the residual waste. In most cases, additional sorting islands were also installed in strategic places. As a result, at each location we collected at least 50% more PMD per visitor.
More recycling in Belgium
98% of the recycling is done in Belgium and the neighbouring countries, and 79% happens here. That is almost 4% more than in 2019. This primarily concerns paper-cardboard, glass and metal. At the moment, plastic packaging is still mainly recycled in France, Germany and the Netherlands, with a small proportion going to Spain. Around 9% of plastic packaging is recycled in Belgium. That share will rise to over 50% by 2023 with the opening of the announced recycling lines for PET bottles and PE films.
Finally, the recycling of household packaging waste has a social cost of EUR 15 per person. This is among the lowest in Europe, although at almost 95% we rank among the European leaders in terms of the recycling percentage.
For more information and clarification, read the Fost Plus 2020 activities report.