Limits of recyclability

Collected and recycled flows

In Belgium, the following household packaging waste are collected through the Fost Plus system: paper-cardboard, packaging in hollow glass, plastic bottles, metal packaging and drinks cartons.

The following criteria apply to recycle a flow of packaging :

  • Sustainable recycling outlet and constant demand for the material
  • Sufficient quantities of the material available
  • The possibility to give a simple and ongoing sorting message to citizens
  • Ensuring that the system is the most efficient at the financial and environmental level

Why not collect and recycle plastics other than bottles :

  • Most of the packaging other than bottles are soiled, often complex (different materials in the same packaging), with variable compositions (several plastics options for the same type of packaging) and available in low quantities
  • There are very few other ‘post-consumer’ plastic recycling outlet
  • The environmental balance for the collection, sorting and possible recycling of those packaging is negative relative to incineration with energy recovery (Belgium processes its unsorted household waste by incineration)
  • It is necessary to provide a simple ongoing sorting message to citizens
  • As recycling solutions do not exist for all qualities of plastics, the motivation of citizens would be adversely affected if they learnt that much sorted packaging are not actually recycled
  • The additional cost, passed on to the entire system, would be huge and disproportionate relative to the additional recycled quantities

Small-sized toxic / corrosive waste:

Packaging used for toxic substances, unblocking agents, descaling agents for toilets or engine oil are not allowed in PMC (plastic, metal, carton) bags.

Is it possible to recycle multi-material paper packaging ?

Any packaging that contains 85% of paper may be deposited in the paper stream and may carry the paper recycling mark. In an eco-design approach it is advisable to :

  • Ensure that the materials used are easily separable (adhesives, films, etc ...). 
  • Avoid non-water soluble double-sided coatings. For good fiber recovery, water must have access to the fibers.

Possible developments

The information contained on this website takes account of collection scenarios that are currently in place in Belgium and existing recycling outlet in Europe. This data may evolve in accordance with technological developments and the trend in secondary raw materials markets. The recyclability of packaging may therefore also evolve.