The circular economy
Fost Plus continues to develop a circular packaging economy in Belgium. The New Blue Bag makes an additional 90,000 tonnes of plastic packaging available for recycling, a huge boost for a growing sector. That has led to the construction of four (of five) new sorting centres, two of which are already operational, and three local recycling capacity investment projects.
Additional 90,000 tonnes of PMD thanks to the New Blue Bag
With the introduction of the New Blue Bag, Fost Plus brings an additional 90,000 tonnes of PMD packaging to the Belgian recycling market. As well as plastic bottles and flasks, from now on virtually all plastic packaging can be put in the PMD bag, accounting for an extra 8 kilograms per person per year.
The New Blue Bag builds further on the success of the PMD collection system which was introduced over twenty-five years ago. The packaging is collected from people’s homes, so everyone can easily take part. What is more, thanks to the extended rules, sorting has been made a lot easier. A uniform scenario across the country results in a constant and homogeneous flow of packaging for recycling.
The collection results demonstrate the enthusiasm for the new sorting scenario. At the end of 2020, 4.1 million Belgians were using the New Blue Bag, which resulted in an additional collection in those intermunicipal authorities of almost 8 kg of PMD per inhabitant on an annual basis.
Also the error margin has declined significantly: in the new scenario, 95% of all packaging is sorted correctly, in contrast to 85% in the classic PMD scenario. In the course of 2021, all Belgians will be able to use the New Blue Bag.
14 intermunicipal authorities
with the New Blue Bag
PMD collected per inhabitant
extra PMD collected per inhabitant compared to intermunicipal authorities where the New Blue Bag is not yet in use.
“Via the New Blue Bag, we collect an extra 90,000 tonnes of packaging a year that until recently ended up in the residual waste.”
Five new high-tech sorting centres
The arrival of the New Blue Bag prompted a total revamp of the sorting centres in Belgium. With 90,000 tonnes of additional packaging every year, extra capacity was most certainly needed. But the more complex composition of the PMD also created a lot of technical challenges for the centres.
Whereas the contents of the PMD bags used to be sorted into nine material flows, the new scenario comprises fourteen. The new material flows include PET trays, polyethylene films, polystyrene and polypropylene. So totally new and more advanced sorting centres were needed, which combine different technologies such as windshifters, optical separators and robots with artificial intelligence. They also have to offer sufficient flexibility to be able to sort more and other material flows in the future. After all, the world of packaging is evolving quickly.
Five companies were chosen further to the market consultation launched by Fost Plus to build new high-tech sorting centres: Indaver in Willebroek, Pre-Zero in Evergem, Val’Up in Mons, Valtris in Charleroi and Sitel in Liège. The first two have been operational since early 2021 and by the end of this year, four of the five centres will be running at full capacity, when the New Blue Bag is introduced throughout the country.
“Five new high-tech sorting centres separate the packaging from the New Blue Bags into fourteen homogeneous flows that meet stringent quality criteria.”
Recycling capacity in Belgium
All packaging from the PMD bags is processed in Europe and recycled to produce new raw materials. 98% of the recycling is done in Belgium and neighbouring countries, of which 79% is done domestically. Recycling close to home avoids transport over long distances and strengthens the local economy by creating jobs and making available secondary raw materials.
For the sorted flows from the New Blue Bag, Fost Plus expressly seeks out specialised partners and investors who are prepared to develop recycling capacity in Belgium. The first three projects resulting from our calls for projects were announced in December 2020.
Mineral water producer Sources ALMA, together with waste expert Suez, is investing in a bottle-to-bottle recycling plant in Charleroi. PET bottles collected from Belgian consumers will be recycled here and then used as raw materials for new bottles, intended mainly for the Belgian market.
Bionerga and ECO-oh! are building a plant together to recycle polyethylene film – from outer packaging and bags, among other things – to make new film. A first for Europe, certainly on this scale. In addition, ECO-oh! is also developing new capacity to recycle non-polyethylene films and mixed hard plastic packaging. This closes the circle, and all packaging from the New Blue Bag is effectively recycled.
“The three recycling projects announced are the first in a series of investments in the Belgian circular economy.”
Design for Recycling
By 2025, Fost Plus aims to offer a recycling solution for all packaging on the Belgian market. Close cooperation with our members plays an important role here. We encourage them to take account of recycling at the end of the lifespan right from the design phase. This way, we are turning round the situation for the last packaging that does not yet fit into our recycling scenarios.
The road to 100% recyclability
“Sustainable packaging starts with avoiding or reducing packaging where possible. And where packaging is absolutely necessary, we go for 100% recyclable. We work closely with Fost Plus to ensure that our packaging can be incorporated into the system in the best way possible.”
Stefaan De Schepper
Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Aldi
Pioneer in packaging innovation
“We developed a totally new packaging for our Snack Pot range with two completely separable materials. Not only does this make the packaging easily recyclable, but we also cut the volume of plastics by 65%. Each pot that is properly sorted represents a gain for the circular economy.”
Brand Manager Knorr at Unilever