Fost Plus is exaggerating: Belgian recycling figures are incorrect

Fost Plus is exaggerating: Belgian recycling figures are incorrect

Fost Plus has been publishing the most spectacular recycling figures for years. For some materials we even achieve more than 100%. How is it possible that we recycle more in Belgium than we consume?

November 15, 2023 Chloé Schwizgebel

Fost Plus has been publishing the most spectacular recycling figures for years. For some materials we even achieve more than 100%. How is it possible that we recycle more in Belgium than we consume? How do we do that while there is still so much litter? The figures have been questioned and criticized several times (Recover , 2018; RNB , 2018). Now RNB has published a detailed report that clearly shows that Fost Plus’s figures are incorrect.

This report on the inflated recycling figures is part of a large-scale study into the performance of Fost Plus. This series of reports comes at a crucial time: Fost Plus’ 5-year contract expires at the end of this year. RNB advises the Belgian government to impose strict conditions on new recognition.

Unrealistic figures

The Belgian recycling figures are good. But not as well as Fost Plus dares to communicate. Because claiming that you recycle 105% of all ferrous metals and even 123% of all glass ( 2022 report ) is misleading. 

Fost Plus is creative with the data. They compare everything they collect for recycling with only what their members put on the market, which is not the entire Belgian packaging market. So that’s how you get sky-high percentages. 

According to our calculations, 59% of our PMD is currently recycled, and not 64.8% as Fost Plus claims (see the report for the calculation). An additional 18,000 tons of PMD would have to be recycled to really reach 64.8%. This is no less than 900 million plastic bottles .

Chloé Schwizgebel, RNB: “ Fost Plus’ creative accounting must stop. It is important that policy is formed on the basis of transparent and complete data. The new recognition for Fost Plus must include strict rules on data collection and reporting .”

How can it be better?

Will Fost Plus continue to exaggerate its recycling results for another five years? We cannot allow that. That is why we provide concrete recommendations in this report for the next recognition. We recommend, among other things:  

  • Clear rules on what may be included in the calculation for recycling and selective collection. These must be in accordance with European standards, which is not yet the case.
  • Transparent spreadsheets with full data, such as in Germany (see p21)
  • Real focus on higher recyclability of packaging (see p10)
  • Financial incentives for more reusable packaging (see p10)
  • Deposit to increase returns and avoid litter

Fost Plus has already taken steps towards better recycling. But we need more ambition, also in the field of prevention and reuse (see our first report). We urge governments to raise the bar for Fost Plus, to strive for a truly circular Belgium. 

Press contact

Chloé Schwizgebel, chloe.schwizgebel@recyclingnetwerk.org, +31 6 43288231