Voynet wins greener French waste policies

Recycling to get tax break, incineration to be capped, waste stream programmes to be launched

French waste policies have been given a decisive push towards increased recycling and minimisation of waste under a policy statement agreed by the government last week. The measures to be taken include a reduction in VAT (sales tax) payable on separate collection, sorting and material recycling of waste from 20.6% to 5.5%. Meanwhile, taxes on landfilling and incineration are to rise by 50% in the context of a generalised eco-tax (TGAP) to be introduced next year (ENDS Daily 23 July).

Environment minister Dominique Voynet has been unhappy with trends in waste management practices for some time. There are doubts over whether a legal target set in 1992 that only "ultimate" waste should be landfilled by 2002 is achievable. A target of 75% recycling of household packaging waste is likewise far from being met. The minister has also criticised departmental (regional) waste plans being drawn up for emphasising incineration to the detriment of recycling (ENDS Daily 16 January).

The new policy statement is intended to redress the balance through new administrative, legal, fiscal and public communications mechanisms, with the aim of ensuring that the 1992 waste law's objectives are met.

Based on a ministerial circular sent to departments this spring, all prefects are now to be sent personalised letters explaining how the aims outlined then should be integrated into household waste management plans. The central objective outlined in the circular was achievement of a national goal of valorisation of at least half of household waste. The circular also targeted a stabilisation of waste incineration capacity by 2005-2007.

Under the general policy of "cradle to grave" product management, the new policy statement heralds a significant widening of the number of French product-specific waste treatment programmes. Systems for scrap cars, used oils and batteries containing toxic substances already exist. To these will now be added all types of batteries, household electrical and electronic appliances and motor vehicle tyres.

Packaging waste recycling is to be given another boost through changes to the funding mechanism of Eco-Emballages and Adelphe, the organisations that manage packaging waste on behalf of firms in the packaging chain. Contributions payable per packaging item are to be amended to encourage waste reduction, while financial support to local waste authorities is to be oriented towards greater separate collection and sorting.

Other elements in the new policy include promotion of biogas, amendment of electricity tariffs to encourage energy recovery from waste, improvements to construction waste management and measures to improve transparency and public understanding of the evolving waste framework. An annual report by government to the parliament on waste management is also foreseen.

Follow Up:
French environment ministry, tel: +33 1 42 19 20 21. The policy statement is available on the ministry's web site.

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