The players in the recycling industry
The French recycling sector is a complex industry, in which a large number of public and private players interact. Here’s an overview of the key players, for a full lowdown on recycling in France.
THE EUROPEAN UNION
No EU member state is completely independent when it comes to waste management. Each state is required to obey the organisation's directives, in order to harmonise the standards and regulations in force on the old continent.
And whichever method of implementation the countries choose, four founding principles must be adhered to: prevention (waste production must be minimised or avoided); precaution (anticipation of environmental issues relating to waste production); proximity (waste must be disposed of as close as possible to source); and polluter-pays (all waste producers are responsible for its management).
The main role of the French state is to set the guiding national strategy for sustainable waste management, and to determine the regulatory framework (compatible with European Directives).
Its decentralised agencies, like the DDT (departmental directorate for land use), DREAL (regional directorate for the environment, planning and housing) and the DDPP (departmental directorate for public protection), implement the decisions made by central government at a local level.
In practice, this means inspecting environmentally sensitive waste transit and treatment facilities.
The French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), a public agency under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment, also has a role in implementing government policy.
It also offers advice to companies and local authorities on coordinating all environmental protection or energy management initiatives, and informs the general public about best environmental practices.
Each French department has a specific action plan which sets out its goals for the reuse, recycling, recovery, storage and destruction of waste, in compliance with national or European strategies.
Each authority affected by the plan is thus required to make arrangements for collecting, sorting and treating waste in accordance with the plan.
Each French commune is responsible for collecting and treating the waste generated by the municipality (household waste and waste produced by public services).
However, it can delegate this responsibility to an inter-municipal body (a district council, a public-private entity, or an inter-municipal association) designed to pool the efforts of its various members and align more closely with the departmental waste management plan.
Each town council designates a delegate who with his or her counterparts will elect the president and members of the group’s various committees (technical committee, bids committee, etc.).
The group itself may then organise the collection, sorting and recycling of household waste, or entrust this task for a limited period to a private provider like Paprec, in the framework of a public procurement contract or a public service delegation contract.
What is an eco-organisation? To answer this question, you also need to know about EPR: Extended Producer Responsibility.
Introduced by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), this principle is all about transferring the responsibility for waste to its producers (such as industrial companies).
Tasked with the collection and recovery of the materials they generate, these waste producers can themselves delegate this responsibility to a non-profit organisation approved by the authorities in return for a financial contribution. This is what is called an eco-organisation.
There are dozens of them in France, all specialising in treating a specific type of material (like Eco-Emballages, a private household packaging recycling company). These experts thus become intermediaries between the authorities, producers, distributors and recycling and recovery professionals, to whom they entrust the collection and treatment of the waste produced.
These entities are designed to promote the benefits of recycling, but also to represent and support the various professionals in the recycling industry.
In France, these companies are members of one or both of the following two federations: FEDEREC, the Fédération des Entreprises du Recyclage, which represents over 1,300 professional recycling players belonging to eight regional associations; or the FNADE, the Fédération Nationale des Activités de la Dépollution et de l’Environnement, an umbrella group of nine associations of recycling professionals or designers of recycling, decontamination or waste storage facilities and equipment.
There are 1,300 recycling companies, including Paprec, in France (and over 2,500 industrial recycling facilities).
They might be contracted by communes, groups of communes or private companies, and are tasked with developing suitable waste collection and treatment networks to transform waste into new raw materials.
These might be used as is by industrial companies and other conversion firms to make new products (for instance paper merchants buy recycled materials to make new wood pulp) or reused for energy generation (this is the case, for example, of recycled wood, which can be used to power boilers).
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