January 28, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

Complete News World

“This is full of unproven and useless assumptions made by the corporate world.”

The Flemish selection of digital deposits is based on a “particularly weakly substantiated” study. This is what the NGO Recycling Network Benelux says in an investigation. There are also doubts about the parliamentary seats.

Jeroen van Hornbeek

At the end of December, after twenty years of debate, the Flemish government gave the green light to introduce a deposit on plastic bottles and cans by 2025. The digital collection system proposed by the industry is preferred. Even if she has to prove herself first. So a series of pilot projects will be launched this year.

In Germany and Scandinavia, among others, sediment has been shown for some time to reduce the amount of litter in nature. This likely includes 70 to 90 percent less plastic bottles and cans. Unlike other European countries, where empty drink packaging must be returned to the store, Flanders prefers an unpublished collection system.

In the digital system, promoted by the recycler Fost Plus, the food association Fevia and the trade organization Comeos, the package will be given a code that must be scanned. Then they can go home in a blue bag. Or in separate public rubbish bins. They will also receive tokens. Once everything is properly scanned, the deposit will be refunded via online banking.


The Flemish government’s selection of digital deposits is based on a study commissioned by the industry by PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants. This study has been released since last week – under pressure from the Flemish Parliament, the media and the environmental movement. According to an investigation by Recycling Network Benelux, this is a “dedicated study” that is not supported by sufficient evidence on important points.

“Based on this study, you can only say: There will not be a working digital collection system before 2025. If it will work at all,” says Rob Borman, Director of Recycling Netwerk Benelux. “The study is riddled with unproven and useless assumptions by the business world. There are hardly any answers to questions about invoice, usability, and privacy. This is a problem.”

In Flanders, there is already a classic glass bottle collection system.Tim Dervin’s photo

Recycling Netwerk Benelux has a long list of critics. The NGO points out, among other things, that there is currently no technology capable of printing unique QR codes on cans at high speed. PwC’s statement that the digital system would cost €32 million less per year than the alternative is also called into question. For example, according to an NGO, PricewaterhouseCoopers wrongly assumes that 137 public rubbish bins are sufficient for outdoor collection throughout Flanders.

Accessibility is another important question mark: What about people who don’t have a smartphone or find it difficult to use it? In principle, they will get a home scanner. “But who is going to ensure that there is a Wi-Fi connection? And how do they have to register: via an online procedure? It’s all not clear,” Bormann says.


Computer scientists also see significant challenges. Vincent Naessens (KU Leuven) explains: “The PwC report identifies a number of important privacy and security issues. But there are often no solutions to these.” To tackle fraud with deposits, consumption data must be centrally managed at least temporarily.

“Creating a digital system that handles sensitive data is not necessarily the most appropriate strategy for addressing this social problem,” says Naessens. “It seems to me that the effectiveness in light of the rubbish is very questionable, just like the arrival of biometric data on the identity card in the aftermath of the attacks on Zaventem. Far-reaching decisions on privacy and cybersecurity must be examined. Also because the centralized collection of data often opens the door for other purposes.”

Naessens points to the broad interpretation of the Patriot Act after 9/11 and its implications for privacy in the United States and around the world. Consider the NSA wiretapping scandal.

looking through

On Wednesday evening, opposition member Mickey Schöflig (Green) voiced harsh criticism in parliament over the choice of digital deposits. “Either Minister Delegate Sahel Demir (N-VA) made decisions based on a study she didn’t internalize. Or she leads the industry. I don’t know what’s worse. I still understand that the industry has a tailor-made study. But the government has to look into that,” she says. Over the phone.

Even within the majority, not everyone seems convinced. Parliamentarian Tinne Rombouts (CD&V) had already requested hearings with the industry last week on how they wanted to develop the digital collection system. “We have to make sure it’s clear from the start what our concerns are about the system and what we expect from the pilot projects.”

Minister Demir has already promised that she will closely involve Parliament. Environmental movement will also be heard regularly in sediment development. Her government says there are clear agreements: If the digital collection system cannot prove itself in 2023, it will switch to the classic system. The deadline is still 2025.

“Why would we introduce a system that doesn’t work? It doesn’t work that way,” Demir asserts. “Let’s first give these pilot projects a fair chance. If it turns out that the results aren’t good, we won’t continue with it for Fost Plus.”

In the digital deposit feasibility study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the technical, technological, logistical and legal aspects were examined. The result was: it can be achieved, ”says the industry in a press release sent on Tuesday. Together with waste manager OVAM and Demir, they will now “develop a step-by-step plan, including the implementation of pilot projects to test the system in practice.”

Industry takes issue with the fact that only 137 more litter boxes will be provided. The plan is to duplicate the 130,000 street garbage bins so that people can also lay eyes on them. In addition, there will be 137 Smart boxes – For example, when there are extra crowds on the Ostend Dam in the summer,” says Komos.

Flemish Environment Minister Sahel Demir (N-VA) Image BELGA

Flemish Environment Minister Sahel Demir (N-VA)BELGA’s photo

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