Why should we care about this issue
In France, the quantity of waste generated per person has doubled over the last forty years and is still increasing at a rate of between 1 and 2 % per year. Consumption of material goods has increased, and at the same time, the products consumed are delivered with more and more packaging (plastic, cardboard, etc.) The generation and treatment of waste are putting greater pressure on the environment and represent a heavy financial burden for the public authorities.
In response, in 1992 a system was introduced in France to prevent the generation of waste, with the aim of reducing both the amount and its level of harmfulness. This approach was also designed to reduce the utilisation of raw material resources. The aim was to lessen the impact on the environment by treating the waste using the most ecologically sound method available, and to encourage the recovery of waste through recycling.
In order to slow down the ever-increasing generation of waste, a wide-ranging action plan (known as the “Grenelle de l'environnement” [Environment Round Table]) was introduced in 2008, covering the period from 2009 to 2012. The objectives of the plan were as follows:
- to reduce the generation of household and similar waste by 7 % per person per year over the next five years;
- to increase the proportion of material and organic household and similar waste sent for recycling to 35 % by 2012 and 45 % by 2015 (75 % for commercial waste and household packaging as of 2012);
- to reduce the quantity of waste incinerated or stored by 15 %.
In addition, the Government has introduced a progressive increase in the tax on polluting activities, encouraging the exploration of innovative ways to prevent the generation of waste, recycling, eco-design and reuse.
The state and impacts
In 2006, France generated a total of 446 million tonnes of waste. This figure covers all sectors of production as defined by the European regulation on waste statistics (Regulation (EC) No. 2150/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2002). The waste falls into three categories:
- mineral waste, accounting for 350 million tonnes. This waste comes almost entirely from the construction industry and public works sector. Two-thirds of this waste is recycled;
- non-mineral, non-hazardous waste, accounting for 86 million tonnes, coming from all sectors, from industry (20.2 million tonnes) to household waste (26.8 million tonnes). Nearly half of this waste is recycled or recovered;
- hazardous waste, accounting for almost 10 million tonnes of the total generated. This type of waste requires particular treatment facilities and represents a risk to human health and the environment. The main sources of such waste are the industrial sector, the construction industry and the service sector. Half of this waste is recovered by recycling or incinerated with energy recovery.Almost all mineral waste is generated in the building and public works sector from construction, renovation or demolition activities. Two-thirds of this non-hazardous waste is recycled or reused in road construction or as hard core on sites other than that where the waste has been generated.
A quarter of the non-hazardous waste, i.e. 20.2 million tonnes, is generated by industry. However, there has been a slight downward trend in the generation of such waste over the last few years, linked not only to the reduced level of industrial activity in the country but also to improvements in production processes.
It is the service sector which has generated the greatest volume of non-hazardous waste, amounting to 22 million tonnes in 2006. As this sector encompasses a wide range of activities, it is responsible for a correspondingly wide variety of waste products.
In 2006, French households generated 26.8 million tonnes of waste. By adding to this other waste collected in the same manner as household waste, i.e. waste from small businesses, a wider category is created, known as household and similar waste. This type of waste is collected, managed and treated by the local authorities.
In total, 34.6 million tonnes of household and similar waste were generated in 2007. This is an increase of 11 % on the figure for 2000, while for the same period the level of material recycling increased by 50 % to 6.1 million tonnes. The increase in the amount of selective door-to-door refuse collection and the number of waste disposal centres (4 300 in 2007) has led to a reduction in the amount of mixed waste collected.
In France, almost half of the total quantity (86 million tonnes) of non-mineral, non-hazardous waste is recovered (more than 40 % of the total is recycled).
A total of 10 million tonnes of hazardous waste were generated in France in 2007. Industry and the building and public works sector were responsible for two-thirds of this waste. This type of waste accounts for 2 % of the total quantity of waste and this proportion has changed little over the last decade. Schemes to prevent the generation of waste, eco-design and the increase in imports of finished products have all contributed to keeping the volume of hazardous waste stable, despite the growth in the supply of goods. Half of the total volume of hazardous waste is recovered through recycling and incineration with energy recovery.
Each year transboundary movements of hazardous waste are monitored and an annual report submitted to the Secretariat of the Basel Convention. The Convention’s definition of this waste is wider than the accepted definition applicable nationally and in Europe. Over an eight-year period, from 1998 to 2006, imports of hazardous waste increased from 510 000 tonnes to 1 620 000 tonnes in France. During the same period, exports increased from 146 000 to 710 000 tonnes.
The key drivers and pressures
The economic activities of a country consume natural resources, most of which are exhaustible. Use of these resources has an impact on the environment throughout their life cycle. The design and consumption of goods and services generates waste. Although some of this waste can be recovered, its treatment further increases the pressure on the environment.
It is of vital importance to ensure better management of both resources and waste, and to improve control of the domestic consumption of raw materials. This will require the implementation of coordinated policies, with respect to both production and consumption.
The objective is to improve the productivity of the resources used by:
- reducing the ecotoxicity and noxious content of the substances and materials consumed, produced and discarded;
- encouraging the development of eco-products;
- preventing the generation of waste;
- improving the collection and recovery of waste;
- developing the use of the secondary raw materials produced.
Between 1990 and 2007, apparent productivity (GDP/apparent demand for raw materials) increased by 24 %. In order to function, the French economy now needs fewer raw materials to generate the same amount of wealth. However, during this same period, the economy’s apparent demand for raw materials has remained stable (approximately 17 tonnes per inhabitant). If hidden flows are also taken into account, the total demand for raw materials rises to 47 tonnes per inhabitant. In France, the move towards a service-based economy has been accompanied by a move from domestic material flows to foreign hidden flows. Better recycling of waste and greater use of secondary raw materials are leading to a significant reduction in the apparent demand for raw materials, thus helping to ensure more sustainable management of resources.
The 2020 outlook
One of the major objectives to be achieved over the next 10 years is the implementation of incentive-based pricing for the household and similar waste disposal, basing the charges on the nature and weight or volume of household waste. The first stage of this scheme is due to be in place within five years.
Ongoing efforts will be made to improve the management of certain types of waste, the development of selective collection services and other appropriate procedures.
Planning will play an increasingly important role, requiring procedures to be established for the management of waste from building and construction sites.
According to commitment 257 of the Environment Round Table project, economic measures specifically designed for the construction and public works sector are to be established, with the aim of preventing and recycling the waste generated by this sector (in line with the targets of the Waste Framework Directive, i.e. 70 % recycling by 2020). Specific regional monitoring units will be created for this purpose and the National Waste Council is already working on this issue.
Existing and planned responses
France is committed to adhering to the principles defined in the new Waste Framework Directive, adopted on 20 October 2008, and aims to:
- prevent the generation of waste;
- prepare waste for reuse;
- increase the use of recycling;
- increase the recovery of waste;
- dispose of waste safely and in a manner which protects the environment.
The draft Environment Round Table law (2008) sets out guidelines on this for the period 2009-2014.
A certain number of stringent measures have already been put in place to encourage prevention and recycling of waste. An awareness campaign has been launched in the media with the theme “Stop the waste - we’re being overwhelmed”, which also stresses the need for eco-consumption. Support for household composting is also being developed and a ban on the use of plastic bags by supermarkets and other stores has been a success. The “Stop Junk Mail” scheme, which enables people to prevent the delivery of junk mail to their homes, now applies to between 5 and 10 % of households, and that number is growing.
Reuse is being encouraged, and this option is becoming more widespread, particularly with electrical and electronic equipment.
New schemes are being introduced to increase the responsibility of producers, who are required to pay for the disposal of their waste. A decree passed on 27 June 2008 established a scheme for used textiles, and negotiations are currently underway to create a scheme for the disposal of waste arising from health care activities involving a risk of infection. Procedures are also being established to improve the collection of agricultural phytosanitary products.
Updating local prevention plans, local household waste disposal plans and regional plans for the disposal of hazardous waste is a priority.
A significant proportion of the country’s waste disposal facilities have been modernised. In 2007, France had 134 waste incineration plants and approximately 300 storage centres which meet European standards.
Financial measures have also been established for the introduction of a general tax on pollution-generating activities. This is based on the “polluter pays” principle, which aims to make it more expensive to send waste to landfill than to recycle it. This tax will rise from EUR 15 per tonne in 2009, to EUR 40 in 2015. In accordance with the Environment Round Table commitments, a specific tax is to be levied on the incineration of household and similar waste, scaled according to criteria based on environmental quality.
· IFEN, 2009 L'économie de l'environnement en 2007: Rapport de la Commission des comptes et de l'économie de l'environnement, Coll. Références 2009 [French Environment Institute, The Environmental Economy in 2007: Report of the Environmental Accounts and Economics Committee, 2009 References collection]
· IFEN, 2009 Production et traitement des déchets en France en 2006, Coll. Etudes et documents No.9 June 2009 [French Environment Institute, Generation and treatment of waste in France in 2006, Studies and Documents collection]]
· Agence de l'environnement et de la maîtrise de l'énergie, Rubrique “Déchets”. Collecte des déchets par le service public en France et Installations de traitement des ordures ménagères (résultats 2006)”. [French Environment and Energy Management Agency: Subheading “Waste” > Collection of waste by public authorities in France and Household waste treatment facilities (Results 2006)] Available at: <htpp://www.ademe.fr>
- CGDD Orléans website: http://www.stats.environnement.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/
- Ademe website: www.ademe.fr
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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