Recycling proposal divides Flemish ruling coalition

Flemish Environment Minister Joke Schauvliege hopes to introduce a system of deposits on plastic bottles and cans. But so far, majority opinion is hopelessly divided over her plan.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Recycling proposal divides Flemish ruling coalition - NewsMavens
Plastic bottles. Pixabay

Why this story matters:

These days, plastic is a big issue in Belgium. During this month's "Mei Plasticvrij"  campaign, people have been asked to try to buy or use as little plastic as possible. In Brussels, activists have organized "plastic attacks" in supermarkets to make people aware of the "absurd plastic culture".

Meanwhile, more and more municipalities in the Flemish part of Belgium are pushing the government to be more ambitious in waste management. Minister Joke Schauvliege has finally agreed on a deposit system for plastic bottles and cans, and hopes to get the measure passed soon.

Flemish nationalists, the largest party in the Government, are against the introduction of a deposit system. They may be open to a compromise, but most people are aware that the issue is on the agenda for electoral reasons.

What kind of foundation is that for an efficient waste plan?

Politicians always promise to be courageous in banning plastic, but in the end, they endlessly delay essential decisions because measures are "impractical" or "too expensive". As elections come closer, they pretend to be willing, but deep down the nationalists are more concerned with migration, education and security than the environment.

Not even a question of greenwashing...

  • On Friday, the Flemish Environment Minister Joke Schauvliege (CD&V) will put her waste plan to the other members of the Government. She will propose introducing deposits on plastic bottles and cans, a system that already exists for many types of glass bottles.
  • Cans and plastic bottles are responsible for 40 % of litter collected from the streets, in parks and elsewhere, the Minister says. She thinks the deposit should be around 25 cents.
  • However, the other parties in the coalition -- N-VA and Open VLD -- are against the measure, despite the fact some of their members are FOR a deposit system.
  • "Half of Flemish municipalities are in favor of the introduction of deposits," argues Schauvliege. "These include a lot of municipalities where the nationalists are in the coalition. I hope that all the parties will feel that they can back this." 
  • In a January letter that has now been revealed, the nationalists left an opening for further discussion. They say that with a cost of 77 million euros -- reducing street litter will save only 15 million euros -- the system is too expensive. But, on the other hand, Nationalists say they are "ready" to talk about it.
  • But is that true? On Wednesday, there was again a huge discussion in the Flemish parliament among the majority. It seems the coalition is too divided to decide.
  • Schauvliege's idea is to increase the industry's contribution by setting up a packaging fund into which producers of plastic bottles and cans would be able to contribute.
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