Fost Plus unveiled its 2014 results at its traditional annual academic symposium which was held on 11 May 2015. Here is a summary of the key points.

A high recycling rate despite a drop in the consumption of newspapers and magazines

In 2014, Fost Plus once again achieved a very high recycling rate: 86.8% and 682,424 tons of packaging waste recycled, i.e. a result which exceeds the legal objective of 80%, despite a slight dip in results compared with 2013 (-0.8%). This decrease is due to the paper-cardboard segment:

  • In the context of a sharp decline in the consumption of newspapers and magazines, the consumption of packaging remained steady. The proportion of packaging in the combined paper-cardboard segment is set at 25% in the Fost Plus approval. However, this distribution formula dates from a time when newspaper and magazine sales were higher. Recent studies have demonstrated that the 25% allocation now underestimates the packaging proportion and therefore artificially deflates the recycling results.
  • The high value of paper-cardboard on the recycling market has led some parties to organise parallel collections (legal or otherwise). As a result some tonnage, despite being recycled, no longer features in the official recycling statistics.

Out-of-home sorting continues to increase and is now becoming the norm

Out-of-home PMC sorting centres have taken off over the last few years and are gradually becoming the norm. The initiatives taken by the Regions to make such sorting compulsory have contributed significantly to this: that is the case in Flanders since July 2013, in Brussels since February 2014, and will shortly apply in Wallonia, with effect from 1st January 2016. The efforts of Fost Plus, supported by the development of a favourable legal framework, have resulted in practical terms in a significant increase in the quantities of PMD collected via the specific channels put in place and financed by Fost Plus. The volume has increased from 2,100 tons collected in 2013 to 4,200 tons in 2014, and the trend is unlikely to slow.

Collecting more and better: plastic packaging other than bottles and flasks is being closely scrutinised

Many councils nationwide now organise additional collections of items other than plastic bottles and flasks. These collections are generally located in container parks: expanded polystyrene, plastic film, flower pots, etc.

Fost Plus is supporting these local initiatives financially, but would like them to be standardised eventually across the whole country. To that end, it has launched an inventory of the composition of the items collected, and the recycling options.

At the same time, Fost Plus is pursuing its preparatory study with a view to expanding the collection of plastics, whether or not via the blue bag. Large-scale tests have been carried out in sorting centres in order to assess the impact of such an expansion on existing facilities. This large-scale study is led by a committee of experts drawn from inter-municipal authorities, waste sector companies, the Interregional Packaging Commission and the Regions. 2015, and especially 2016, will be pivotal years, with pilot projects launching in a number of Belgian municipalities.

A deposit system, a simplistic response to a complex problem, namely public uncleanliness

There have recently been calls in Wallonia and Flanders for the introduction of a deposit system for plastic cans and bottles in order to eliminate the scourge of litter. Fost Plus strongly believes that the introduction of such a deposit system would be a mistake, since it is not an appropriate response to the need to tackle litter and will not generate the necessary mindset change:

  • It will not resolve the problem of uncleanliness, since litter goes beyond drinks packaging (plastic bags, cigarette butts, paper, etc.)
  • It is a very expensive system: the cost of collecting and recycling packaging waste could amount to more than three times the cost of the current system (up to EUR 230 million on an annual basis)
  • It would undermine the existing system and its success by creating competition between two systems working towards the same goal: to reduce packaging waste.
  • It will not be consumer-friendly because it will force consumers to sort and store at home a new recyclable (the drinks packaging), which they will have to take themselves to the collection point and scan one by one, whereas, today, they can dispose of such waste in their blue bag which is collected from their home.

Litter is a real problem. To resolve this problem, we need to work on changing mindsets. The business world via Fost Plus wants to prove that it is possible, as the success of waste sorting has shown. To achieve this goal, we need to break with the past and adopt a far more militant approach. Respect for public cleanliness must become the norm once again. As part of an enhanced partnership with the public authorities and all the business world stakeholders, it is important to lay the foundations for a “clean” revolution. This will involve in particular raising public awareness, high-performance cleaning tools and a zero tolerance approach to polluters.

The 2014 annual report is available on the website in French and Dutch, with the English version available soon.