The director of the packaging waste fund warns: China preys on our waste

Waste is the new gold. Let’s be careful with the valuable materials in the waste such as plastic, steel and aluminium. And let’s recycle it in our country and not let valuable raw materials flow away to countries like China. “This country is busy attracting as many raw materials as possible.” This is the heartfelt cry of Hester Klein Lankhurst, Managing Director of Afvalfonds Verpakkingen.

All companies within the EU that manufacture or import packaged products are responsible for their collection, sorting and recycling. They do this in the Netherlands through the waste bin. As of 2023, legal assignments have been expanded. Companies have to pay not only for the treatment of waste from households, but also from businesses, packing into general waste and garbage containers.

The companies will also be collecting cans from April, with a deposit. Municipalities, catering establishments, schools, offices and hospitals would be cheaper, but for packaging producers and users like Unilever and supermarkets like AH, processing rates have gone up “incredibly,” says Klein-Lanqurist; They have recently started paying almost twice as much for each kilogram of packaging.

In the Netherlands, about 80 percent of all packaging materials are recycled, which is relatively high in Europe. Paper, cardboard, cans and glass in particular are heavily recycled, leaving only plastic. “Plastic is still in puberty,” Klein Lanchurst laughs.

Photo by Edwin Werz

We will need plastic for a long time. So we have to keep the raw materials with us

Starting this year, packaging companies will also pay for waste handling costs from businesses, schools, hospitals and the catering industry. And since a third of this waste is now shipped to countries outside the European Union, legally and mostly to the East, they also want to keep this waste.

“The time is over when you, as a producer, could say it was none of your business what happens to your packaging in Asia. We want to rule out any possibility that waste is shipped, as it was a few years ago, to a letterbox in Bangkok, and not Properly recycle it and it ends up on the beaches of Bali. What you see there is heartbreaking. On top of that, we need those raw materials ourselves. We must do everything we can to ensure that more can be recycled. As a result, you add value to the flow. It’s also “Employment and you become less dependent on oil-producing countries. And let’s not be naive and make sure that plastic in particular stays out of China’s clutches, it’s good for our economy. We can do something about that now.”

There is currently not enough capacity within the Netherlands and the European Union to process and recycle all of this waste. burn it then? Klein Lankhurst: “There has to be more capacity within Europe quickly. If there is an export ban in the short term, we’ll keep all the waste here and we’ll have to burn most of it, which is putting the cart before the horse. You can still burn waste at a high quality level, with recovery energy, but you will lose raw materials after that.”

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Packers and packers are facing a second process: From April, consumers can drop off deposit boxes at supermarkets, stations and sports clubs. Companies are interested in processing and recycling. She adds that creating such a system requires a lot of time and effort, which is why the court was asked to postpone the implementation starting from January, based on the orders of the Council of Ministers. The state council has validated the packaging companies. “It’s a huge operation. The deposit system is already in place for one and a half billion plastic bottles with a cap. Soon there will be another two and a half billion cans with a deposit, they are open and supermarkets have to take sanitary measures when they return them.” With the cans deposit, 15 cents, this stream of cans should become so pure that the metal and aluminum can be recovered more easily. Thus, companies recover their aluminum and metal to manufacture cans again. That’s attractive.”

With all good intentions, you would expect to reduce the amount of plastic packaging. Making plastic unnecessary seems like a utopia. “Plastic does not degrade in the environment, but it has a number of great properties, for example to increase the shelf life of products and hygiene in healthcare. It is light, strong and does not break easily. We will need plastic for a very long time. This is what we call the plastic paradox. This is why Preventing plastic raw materials from leaking into the environment is very important, we must keep the raw materials with us as much as possible.”

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