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Belgium is missing out on plastic recycling opportunities, say experts

14:51 23/09/2020

Some 25,000 Belgian firms still do not sort their plastic film, the country’s industrial packaging organisation Valipac has announced. In view of this wasted opportunity, the company – that gathers industrial waste data from some 190,000 businesses – is launching a campaign to show the benefits of the sorting and recycling process.

“According to our calculations, nearly 34,000 more tonnes of plastic film could be sorted. The potential is enormous,” said Valipac managing director Francis Huysman, presenting the results of the research carried out by the packaging company with the University of Hasselt.

“Sorting of industrial waste is on the right road,” Huysman said. Indeed, according to Valipac data, in 2019, Belgium recycled 89.7% of industrial packaging, some 695,000 tonnes.

“We already achieve very high recycling rates for cardboard, metal and wood. But this is not yet the case for plastics,” the managing director regretted. Out of the 100,000 tonnes of industrial plastic packaging put on the Belgian market each year, only 57,000 tonnes is collected for recycling.

For Huysman, this figure is particularly regrettable, when collecting plastic film is “relatively simple”. Industrial waste collectors will provide plastic bags for the film that will be collected at the same time as those for paper and cardboard. The cost of sorting and recycling of plastics is included in the price of these bags.

“There are no additional logistical costs,” Valipac continued. “On the contrary, firms can even reduce their fees. As although plastic film weighs very little – a bag filled with 400 litres is around 10 kg – the film takes up a lot of space in the container. So sorting film in the bags first [which will be taken away with the other bags for recycling instead of putting it in the containers] will stop the container filling up and needing to be emptied too quickly.”