France announces draft ‘circular economy’ bill

Brune Poirson, the Secretary of State for Ecological Transition in France, has presented a draft ‘circular economy’ bill (Loi Anti-Gaspillage pour une economie circulaire) which is expected to go before Parliament in September.

Building on the plan announced by prime minister Edouard Philippe in April 2018 which seeks to embrace a philosophy of repair, re-use and recycle, the bill seeks to reduce built-in obsolescence in electrical goods, broaden the country’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme, ban the destruction of unsold textiles and return to the ‘consigne’ deposit-return system.

The draft bill appears to have been broadly welcomed. Elipso, the professional association representing manufacturers of plastic packaging in France calls it an ambitious and strong text, a ‘big bang’ which will profoundly change the world of waste. Elipso has called for a calm debate and asks that the law should support the deployment of new plastic recycling channels and encourage innovation.

There is opposition in some quarters however. Federec, the Federation of Recycling Companies, has said that bringing back the consigne will be “costly for French people, local councils and small shopkeepers” which won’t have the resources to set up a deposit-return system. Federec sees the higher value recyclable drinks bottle/can streams being diverted to the major industrial groups which will operate the schemes, while smaller recyclers and local sorting centres will be left to handle less profitable schemes. Local councils stand to lose a source of revenue estimated at up to €300 million each year, says Federec.

What is undeniable is that France needs to tackle the issue of waste, and especially plastics. Data released by Citeo indicates that France lags behind Europe in its recycling of household plastics, managing to recycle only 26.5% compared to a European average of 41%. If Brune Poirson can push her legislation through, France may well become a European leader in plastic recycling, rather than lagging behind.

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