VIDEO - Four stages of plastic recycling

VIDEO - Four stages of plastic recycling

Packaging plays an essential role in our daily lives: it makes it possible to store food longer or transport it with peace of mind. But did you know that they also contribute to the circular economy? It creates a closed circuit where these raw materials are constantly reused. In this article, you will learn more about plastic recycling.

Plastic recycling makes a significant contribution to building the circular economy for packaging. The starting point of the circular economy for packaging is the finite nature of natural resources such as fossil fuels or shale gas, of which plastic is originally made. The circular economy for packaging forms a closed loop in which raw materials can be used over and over again. In this way, single-use plastic packaging becomes valuable because the raw material can be reused time and again, provided it is correctly sorted and recycled.

Packaging is often essential: to keep products fresh for longer or transport them safely. By sorting them correctly after use, the packaging is recycled into raw materials for new products and packaging. Simply recycling, using energy-efficient products and packaging thus means less to no primary resources needed. The available natural resources are preserved, and almost no packaging waste ends up in the incinerators. This has a snowball effect with positive consequences for our health, economy and environment. The process also reduces our dependency on foreign sources and stimulates local economic and technological progress and hence job creation. 

Efficient plastic recycling consists of four phases.

1. Good sorting habits

It is estimated that 25,000 tonnes of PMD still ends up in residual industrial waste each year. That is a shame. Once recyclable items such as tins or bottles end up in residual waste, they are lost to the circular economy. Correct recycling thus begins with sorting habits. Both at home and outside, we have a valuable resource in our hands that should not just be thrown away, but ought to end up in the PMD bag or bin.

2. Sorting centres in Belgium

The selective items collected via the blue PMD bag or bin are first sorted automatically. This means not only into the three major groups of plastic packaging, metal and drinks cartons, but also by type of plastic. PET bottles and yoghurt containers, for example, contain a different type of plastic and require a different sort of recycling. The sorted materials are then compacted into bales and sent to the recycling centres.   

3. Recycling in Europe

All household packaging waste collected selectively by Fost Plus is recycled in Belgium or neighbouring countries. In this way, we keep the resources close to home. We thus avoid lengthy transport and the associated environmental footprint, are able to carry out stricter checks and foster the local economy.

The bales of sorted plastic are processed in several steps into secondary raw materials in the form of chips or grains that are sold by the recyclers to producers of plastic applications. They will melt down the chips or grains and transform them into new packaging or products: new bottles, for example, in the case of PET. Some of these bottles are made of 100% recycled PET.

In order to foster the circular economy for packaging in Belgium, Fost Plus launched calls for proposals in 2019 for building recycling centres in Belgium.

4. Keeping them in the loop

The last phase closes the loop. Products or packaging that is made of recyclate can be recycled again. In other words, sorting is the message!

Fost Plus is the engine of the circular economy for packaging in Belgium. The organisation brings together all the actors in the chain for an efficient policy for household packaging waste. Take a look at the video here and trace the route travelled by a PET bottle in the recycling process.