Belgium has always achieved good results in the field of packaging recycling. One of the key factors in this success is the house-to-house collection of PMD waste.
The blue PMD bag appeared on the streets of Belgium some twenty-five years ago. The separate collection of PMD – Plastic bottles and containers, Metal packaging and Drinks cartons – proved a success and millions of Belgians started sorting enthusiastically.
Simple for the public
‘House-to-house collection plays a crucial role in the high level of participation in our system’, Patrick Laevers explains. ‘The PMD bags are collected from the public at home on average every two weeks. That makes it easy for everyone to take part in the system, including those who are less mobile or have smaller homes.’
In addition, the sorting rules are the same across the entire country. ‘Whether you sort at home or at work, at the coast or in the Ardennes makes no difference. The same packaging can be put in these bags wherever you are. Not only does that make communication easier, but it also creates a habit, which means that it is easier for members of the public to sort correctly.’
Continuing the momentum
With the introduction of the New Blue Bag, Fost Plus continues building on these strong points of the system. ‘For practical reasons, we have opted for a gradual introduction throughout the country. This gives all parties enough time to prepare. But once every member of the public has a New Blue Bag, within a period of just two years, we will again have a uniform collection scenario all over the country. In most places, the frequency of the house-to-house collection remains unchanged as well.’
In addition, the sorting rules are simpler, because all plastic packaging can be put in the New Blue Bag, including yoghurt pots, butter tubs, meat packaging or plastic bags. ‘This means that a number of alternative plastic packaging collection processes still in force in certain places instantly become superfluous. From then on, everything can simply be put in the same PMD bag. That again makes things easier for members of the public.’
Critical mass necessary
Fost Plus is expecting to be able to collect an additional 85,000 tonnes of packaging annually, which comes to about eight kilos per inhabitant. This critical mass of materials is crucial for sustainable and efficient processing. ‘If you want efficient sorting and recycling processes, you need a constant flow of materials with the same composition and quality all the time. Because then it's worthwhile optimising processes and investing in new technologies’, says Patrick Laevers.
Packaging from the New Blue Bag will be sorted into fourteen separate high-grade flows. Eventually there will probably be even more. ‘For that, no fewer than five new, high-tech sorting centres are being built in Belgium. You can only attract these investments if you can guarantee the necessary volumes and quality in the long term’, Patrick Laevers stresses.
Volume and quality are among the most important elements for recycling as well. ‘It does not make much sense to develop and build new recycling centres if you can’t guarantee a constant supply of material. The technology has to be developed and the recycling centres have to be built. Developments like this need a stable investment climate. On the other hand, you can’t expect manufacturers to make products and packaging from recycled materials if a stable supply in terms of volume and quality is not guaranteed.’
‘In short, the uniform collection scenario is the basis to achieve our ultimate ambition: the development of an innovative, sustainable and local circular economy’, Patrick Laevers concludes.
Read more articles and insights on the circular economy at www.fostplus.be