All plastic packaging – almost – to be accepted in blue recycling bag


The new regulations on what can go in the blue bag are gradually being introduced across the country and are already in force in East and West Flanders

‘An important step’

From today, many Flemish households can send all their plastic waste to be recycled via the blue recycling bag. The new rules on what can be recycled are being introduced in phases across the region and should apply to the whole of the country by the end of next year.

Currently, the blue PMD bag is only for plastic bottles, metal packaging and drink cartons. Under the new regulations, all plastic will go in the blue bag for recycling – yoghurt pots, trays, cellophane, tubs used for butter and margarine, plastic bags and toothpaste and hair gel tubes.

Fost Plus, the organisation responsible for collection and recycling household waste, hopes that 65% of plastic packaging will be recycled by 2023. “The new system makes it considerably easier for citizens to sort, resulting in a significant increase in the amount of household packaging waste that can be recycled,” said managing director Patrick Laevers. “The extension of the PMD bag to include all sorts of plastic packaging is an important step towards a true economy of circular packaging.”

Time to invest

The changes follow a test project in 2016 in which 120,000 residents in six municipalities were given purple rubbish bags and allowed to place an extended range of items in them for recycling. The aim was to examine participation levels, the impact on both cost and technical processes in the sorting centres, and the sustainability of the recycling process.

The new system makes it considerably easier for citizens to sort, resulting in a significant increase in household packaging waste that can be recycled

- Patrick Laevers of Fost Plus

Anything thrown into recycling bags must be clean, flattened and empty, with plastic and foil lids removed and placed in the bag separately. Items should not be placed inside each other as this makes it impossible for the automatic sorting system at recycling centres to recognise them, and such items cannot then be recycled. Not everything can yet be recycled – child-proof screw caps, anything with hazardous contents, polystyrene, plastic items such as buckets or toys and anything with a volume over 8 litres are not accepted.

The new regulations are already in place in large parts of East and West Flanders, with households in Brussels, Antwerp province and Limburg having to wait until next year. Recycling centres need time to invest in the necessary infrastructure.

Residents will be informed when their area is changing to the new system and until then should continue to only place plastic bottles, metal packaging and drinks cartons in the blue bags.

Photo: Belga/Philippe François