Packaging waste management in France

The French packaging Decree, which came into force in January, has received a favourable response from both the European packaging industry and several EC states, including the UK. The Decree does not set ambitious material recycling targets and leaves collection to the traditional operators. Costs are therefore significantly lower than those imposed in Germany.

The Decree was devised as a response to the German system in order to influence the EC Directive on packaging waste. The French were able to learn from Germany's experiences with its packaging ordinance, and industry was widely consulted on the legislation.

Where the draft EC Directive contains targets of 90% recovery and 60% recycling for each packaging material (ENDS Report 210, pp 32-33 ), the French Decree sets no targets. Instead, the packaging industry has been told to aim to "valorise" 75% of packaging waste by 2003 - and was warned that unless it did so the industry-run co-ordinating organisation required by the Decree would not be approved and a deposit/refund system introduced instead.

Valorisation includes reuse, material recycling, incineration with energy recovery and composting. However, a target that no individual material should be valorised at less than 60% may mean that fairly high material recycling rates will have to be reached if no more incinerators are built. It is estimated that material recycling will be needed for 20-30% of waste plastics.

Because the "targets" are not fixed in legislation the French Government will be able to set higher or lower targets or give more emphasis to material recycling in the light of experience.

In Germany, industry has been required to set up a separate collection system for packaging waste. In contrast, the French Decree allows industry - through the official body Eco-Emballages - to co-ordinate collection using the existing waste management structure in order to avoid a duplication of effort.

Eco-Emballages raises revenue by charges on packaging producers, as in the German system but at a much lower rate. The funds are paid to local authorities for sorting and delivering material for recycling at a rate of 1,500 FF per tonne for plastic and non-incinerated aluminium, but only 0-50 FF per tonne for glass. Local authorities also receive payments from the industry bodies set up to recycle packaging waste. An unlimited "take-back" guarantee has been given for glass, paper and board, steel and aluminium, although the plastics industry has limited the amount of material it will take.

Eco-Emballages' high fees have been criticised by the wine and spirits industry, and a separate organisation, Adephe, has been set up to collect glass.

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