Greener French waste policies bear fruit

Voynet issues progress report on 1998 initiative to boost recycling, cut management costs

A far-reaching overhaul of French waste management law and practices is beginning to bear fruit nine months after the process was launched, the country's environment minister Dominique Voynet claimed yesterday.

The new policies were launched last August in a coordinated attempt to reduce the environmental impacts of waste, encourage greater recycling and reduce the costs of waste management for local authorities (ENDS Daily 31 August 1998). The environment ministry's overall aim is to ensure that key objectives of France's 1992 waste law - such as an end to landfilling of untreated waste - are met by the legal deadline of 2002.

A wide range of new initiatives have now been launched or are under development, the minister said at a press conference in Paris. Key amongst these, she said, were changes to departmental (provincial) waste plans to encourage recycling, end uncontrolled waste landfilling and reduce emissions from waste incinerators, and the introduction on 1 January this year of a lower VAT (sales tax) rate for separate collection and recycling of waste.

The government's push to encourage recycling through fiscal measures were already bearing fruit, Ms Voynet said. According to a study by Ademe, the French environment agency, local authorities have benefited from a 16% fall in the costs of residual waste management between 1997 and 1999. Meanwhile, financial benefits available to authorities for recycling through central government support and commercial revenues are estimated to have increased by between 66% (for urban areas) and 156% (for rural areas) over the three year period.

Ms Voynet listed a swathe of other initiatives designed to improve the environmental performance of particular household waste streams, elicit greater involvement of key groups in society in the process, and improve the environmental profile of products.

All types of battery must now be collected for treatment under a government decree issued earlier this month, which extends a previous law that applied only to batteries containing certain toxic metals. A ministerial working group is currently investigating how to improve collection and recycling of office equipment. New measures to improve the management of waste motor tyres are to be announced next month. And a further working group is looking at improving management of newspapers, magazines and "junk" mail.

Other initiatives under way include measures to encourage product eco-design, including environment agency funding to companies, development of software support tools and an environmental evaluation of the mail order industry. Improvements in the management of construction waste are also being targeted by the government.

Follow Up:
French environment ministry, tel: +33 1 42 19 20 21. References: More details are available on the environment ministry's web site at

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