IRPC Activity Report 2019

Message from the Chair and the Director

The new blue bag, extensive monitoring of industrial and commercial waste, simplified electronic submission of prevention plans... These are just a few of the highlights of 2019.

One thing is certain: the circular economy is gaining increasing attention. Think, for example, of eco-modulation of the Fost Plus and Valipac fees and the expanded contents of the new blue bag, which will be sorted into at least 14 fractions. Below you will find an overview of the topics that marked 2019 for the Interregional Packaging Commission (IRPC). We will then take a brief look at what lies ahead in 2020.

The new 2019-2023 accreditation of Fost Plus took effect in 2019. One important aspect of this accreditation was the widespread introduction of the new blue bag. As from 2021, all plastic packaging will be collected right across Belgium. More than three million Belgians could already use the new blue bag by the end of 2019. Effective communication nationwide required a clear sorting message that was as simple and uniform as possible.

The collection of a broader range of PMD also has an impact on the Belgian sorting infrastructure. The new blue bag will be sorted into a minimum of 14 fractions, with the aim of ensuring the highest-quality recycling possible. Sorting will take place entirely in Belgium. Five new sorting plants are to be specially built throughout the country for this purpose.

Fost Plus also submitted to the IRPC a proposed new approach to PMD/P+MD collection from companies and out-of-home collection of PMD/P+MD. Examples include schools, sports centres, festivals or events, railway stations, metro stations and airports. The accredited compliance organisation put forward an action plan to achieve the precise and ambitious objectives for 2023, which are to double PMD collection from businesses and to collect at least 26,000 tonnes of PMD waste generated outside the home.

Another item on the agenda was eco-modulation of the Fost Plus fees. Packaging that hinders selective collection or sorting or that cannot be recycled should in future be subject to a strongly deterrent fee, amounting to at least twice the highest recycling fee.

In 2019 Valipac, the accredited compliance organisation for the management of industrial and commercial packaging waste, continued extensive monitoring of industrial and commercial waste, which it began a year earlier. This is an effective tool for the Belgian Regions, as it provides an overview of the industrial/commercial waste collected by sector, by material and by Region. Annual reporting enables us not only to observe a trend in the sorting and selective collection of industrial/commercial waste, but also to identify potential problems and adjust strategies where necessary.

In 2019 the new prevention plans were also submitted for the period 2019-2022. The simplified submission procedure using electronic forms made it easier for companies to declare their prevention plans, both individually and at sectoral level.

The processing of Belgian packaging waste suddenly received a great deal of media coverage during the past year. The waste was reportedly exported to countries such as Turkey and Malaysia, without any certainty that it was actually being recycled there. According to the reports, a large part of the packaging waste ended up not being recycled and the figures were inaccurate. All kinds of theories were circulating in the media.

Both household and industrial/commercial packaging waste streams are very tightly controlled. This ensures, with absolute certainty, that they are recycled. If there is the slightest doubt about whether packaging waste has actually been recycled, the quantities concerned are excluded from the Belgian results. This has been the policy of the Interregional Packaging Commission and the accredited compliance organisations Fost Plus and Valipac for many years now.

In practice, household packaging waste is recycled exclusively in Europe. Only a small proportion of industrial and commercial packaging waste is recycled outside Europe.

We do, of course, want to help solve the problems that underlie these misconceptions. In many cases, they are false assumptions. Often packaging waste was not involved at all and sometimes the waste was not even Belgian, but foreign waste that was passing through a Belgian port.

In any event, the IRPC is seeking to develop an irrefutable, effective recycling system within Europe and, if possible, within Belgium. In 2020 we will therefore continue to explore how best to encourage recycling of packaging waste in Belgium and Europe.

Finally, on 17 April 2019 the European Commission introduced a fundamental change to the calculation rules for attaining recycling and recovery targets. It therefore seemed appropriate for the IRPC to update the Belgian calculation method. To ensure an efficient transition, we brought in an independent consultancy firm.

Looking ahead to 2020, we await with interest the conclusions of the consultancy firm on the new reporting method, in line with the new European rules. We are also expecting final approval of the revised version of the interregional Cooperation Agreement of 4 November 2008 on the prevention and management of packaging waste, which contains a number of important amendments. For example, the definition of “party responsible for packaging” has been clarified, in response to the growth of e-commerce from abroad.

The new Cooperation Agreement also includes some very ambitious recycling targets. Firstly, the recycling rates to be achieved for each material are considerably higher. And secondly, the targets for beverage packaging and household packaging are also increasing drastically: 90% and 95%, respectively, will have to be collected selectively for recycling.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy reading our Activity Report.

Danny Wille

Marc Adams