French waste target "will not be met"

Parliamentary report finds that end to landfilling of raw waste by 2002 is unrealistic

France's legal target of ending landfilling of untreated household waste by 2002 is "utopian", according to a report produced in the lower house of parliament, the Assemblée Nationale. The report calls for more to be done to reduce total waste generation, and more support for material recycling.

Drafted by MP Ambroise Guellec, the report takes stock of progress in implementing a major national law on waste passed in 1992. The law aims to prevent and reduce waste generation. It sets two major policy targets, both to be met by 1 July 2002: a ban on landfilling of untreated household waste, and "valorisation" of 75% of household packaging waste.

Mr Guellec describes the changes introduced by the law as a "cultural revolution", but says that the costs of achieving them were "totally underestimated". In 1992, the government suggested that FF10-15 billion (Ecu1.5-2.3 billion) would be required. More recent estimates put the figure at FF60 billion, Mr Guellec says. "How can we guarantee that in 2000 costs will not reach FF100 billion?" he asks.

Drawing on a recent survey of regional plans to implement the law, Mr Guellec describes progress so far as "lukewarm" and says that "it is more and more evident that the deadline of 1 July 2002 will not be met."

He notes that about half of all d partements still have not drawn up the required plans, and that some of the 47 plans completed "reflect more a desire to formally meet a legal obligation than a consensus to put a coherent strategy into practice."

Mr Guellec criticises several aspects of the plans so far completed. Most are based on a predicted 2% annual increase in household waste generation. This is "paradoxical", he says, because the "first principle" of the 1992 law "is the prevention and reduction of the quantity of wastes produced."

A major reason for the paradox, Mr Guellec suggests, is a "depressing...absence of will" on the part of d partements. Specifically, he charges them with depending too much on the "easy option" of waste incineration rather than separate collection and recycling. According to a recent official study, departements envisage doubling the proportion of household waste incinerated to 65% by 2002.

Mr Guellec recommends three solutions: reduce the volume of waste; further develop material recycling of waste; and introduce flexibility for regions to introduce solutions that match their specific conditions.

Follow Up:
Assemblée Nationale . References: Rapport d'information sur les déchets ménagers (full text of the report available on the web site under Actualités).

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