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France Launches Plan Affecting Life Cycle of Products and Producer Responsibility

On 23 April 2018, the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, together with the deputy Minister for the Environment, Brune Poirson, launched a circular economy plan (the Plan). The Plan aims at getting away from a “produce, sell and throw away” culture while positioning France as a leader on the circular economy in the EU and the world in general. The Plan includes 50 measures that will be transformed into French law by 2019, on the occasion of the adoption of a national law which will transpose the upcoming revised EU Waste Directive.

The work of preparing the Plan was initiated on October 2017 and allowed for several contributions to be brought forward by interested parties and citizens. Beyond meetings with government officials, the preparing of the Plan also involved an online platform on which citizens could be consulted and vote. The final Plan was drafted on the basis of a synthesis of all contributions and comments received as well as on a report on the future of Extended Producer Responsibility (called the Vernier Report) handed to the President of the Republic on 14 March 2018.

The main objectives of the Plan are:

  • To reduce by 30% the share of resources used by 2030, taking the year 2010 as the reference;
  • To reduce by 50% the amount of non-hazardous waste sent to landfill by 2025, taking the year 2010 as the reference;
  • To recycle up to 100% of plastics by 2025;
  • To save up to 8 million tonnes of co2 emissions each year as a result of plastics recycling;
  • To create up to 300,000 new jobs.

To achieve these objectives, the Plan proposes 50 tangible measures articulated around four main ideas:

  • Extend the life cycle of products;
  • Simplify sorting of waste;,
  • Extend and reform Extended Producer Responsibility of waste streams;
  • Make recycling competitive.

For extending the life cycle of products, the French Government wishes to develop a simple label on all products indicating reparability. This label will be mandatory on all electric and electronic equipment from 2020, and on all products from 2021. A reparability index will be calculated taking into account, for example, the availability of spare parts for a given number of years, the cost of these parts, the ability to dismantle the product in question, and the access given to software. As an example of what this label could ultimately look like, the Prime Minister suggested a “10 years reparability” label developed by Seb-Moulinex in its factory at Mayenne in France.

In addition to this new mandatory label, the Government wishes to better enforce the rules on the duration of warranties. The Government also wishes to ease the filing of complaints by customers online. Finally, France aims at promoting, at EU level, an extension of the legal warranty period beyond 2 years.

For simplifying sorting, the Government announced that the current “green point” label will be replaced for all household products by the “Triman” label from 2021 onwards. Also, all sorting instructions will be harmonised at national level. Finally, the Government wishes to create a “solidarity” deposit system for all plastic bottles and cans. The “solidarity” dimension comes from the fact that the deposit will not be paid back to the customer but to a local or national association supporting a cause of general public interest.

Regarding Extended Producer Responsibility (REP), the Government took into account the Vernier Report and noted that the 14 existing sector-specific REPs did not all work properly; some were less efficient than normal since they enjoy a monopoly situation. Therefore, the Government now calls for a reform of governance rules on REPs, especially for the placing on operators of a performance obligation (with possible penalties) instead of a best-efforts one. It also wants to extend the existing 14 sector-specific REPs to cafés/-hotels/restaurants, toys, sporting goods, leisure and do-it-yourself activities, as well as cigarettes, due to the high cost related to cigarette-butt collection. The government is also studying ways to improve the collection of mobile phones and construction waste.

The last of the major ideas developed in the Plan is to make recycling competitive. Currently, sending waste to landfill is more lucrative than recycling. France has one of the weakest rates of municipal waste recycling in Europe (only 40%). The Government wants this situation to change by the end of President Macron’s five-year term. To do this, the Government will decrease the VAT applicable to recycling, and compensate for this by a proportionate increase of the duty on polluting activities (i.e. the TGAP). Also, the Government will provide financial support to local authorities that incentivize sorting with such measures as tying the local waste collection tax rate to the amount of actual waste produced by the ratepayer.

Please click on the following for the Plan. Currently this is available only in French.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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