The first plenary session of the Assises des Déchets, after a day of technical workshops, was devoted to a political analysis of breakthroughs to be seen in the chapter on “circular economy” of the energy transition law for green growth, to the “Waste Plan 2015-2025”, and to the review of the French waste policy against European background. The level of mobilisation of local territories reached so far, and still increasing, was also emphasised.
After 58 local territories won the national call for projects “Zero Waste, Zero Wastage” in 2014, about a hundred of local territories are already candidates this year: the success of this call for projects shows how significant the ongoing dynamic is. It is also underlined by the fact that the state is determined, says Patricia Blanc, managing director in charge of the prevention of risks of the MEDDE, to promote a “non-elitist” approach and to allow all local territories to start testing their approach, whatever their performance at the start. Tools have been made available to them for that (Waste fund of the Ademe, Heat fund, Investment Program for the Future, etc.), and other measures are planned, like the dissemination of the incentive-based pricing, the introduction of a “new-look” General Tax on Polluting Activities (TGAP), which would take efforts made by local authorities into account, the Tax on the Removal of Household Refuse (TEOM) extended to waste derived from economic activities, etc. We’ll learn more on these topics with the Amending Finance Law at the end of 2015.
Progresses made might be decisive, even though “technical” tools are not a solution to everything, as senator Gerard Miquel, president of the National Waste Council said. “Such disparities between territories are due to the fact that levels of local engagement are not the same everywhere, that communication towards citizens is not always adapted, that there are differences in scopes of action… We thus need to work on harmonising and simplifying rules, especially in terms of incentive-based pricing, while taking care, however, not to go too far in a top-down systematisation and in strengthening profitability at the detriment of the social impact”.
“Energy transition law and the new texts on territorial organisation will be a formidable accelerator, said Bernard Harambill, managing director of Veolia Propreté. Except that local authorities will have to define their suitable scope of action”. This was illustrated by Thierry Burlot, vice-president of the Bretagne Region in charge of land use planning and environment and president of Kerval Centre Armor in the Côtes d’Armor department, a territory that won the call for projects “Zero Waste, Zero Wastage” at the end of 2014. He noted: “From now on, waste plans will be implemented on a regional scale, which seems to me an appropriate scale, between excessive localisation with too little coordination and a top-down centralised approach. It is up to us to devise a plan of land use and solidarity plan out of it.”
We should not be contended with the new quantitative objectives of the energy transition law (LTECV) that will be pursued in the national Waste Plan. As Nathaly Villerm, head of the prevention and waste management network of France Nature Environment (FNE) analyses it: “Setting objectives is not enough, their implementation also has to be evaluated! As a whole, we subscribe to the recent LTECV and NOTRe laws, and the new regional scale that will bring together competencies in economics, environment/waste and vocational training in the field… But a critical aspect will be to maintain an overall vision of circular economy concretely articulating sustainable production, sustainable consumption and waste treatment”.
It still remains to be seen whether the progress brought about by the LTECV will occur at European level. Michel Sponar, policy officer at the European Commission, says it will, while acknowledging that there are still gaps in France’s achievements, where the recycling rate is lower than in other member states. But he admits that France’s new legislative advances are “a source of inspiration for the Commission”. He evoked the few paths of the future circular economy package that will be presented in December: generalisation of incentive taxation, the only means to reach the set targets, or the resolute decision that structural funds will no longer be allocated to landfill and incinerator projects…
MEDDE: Ministère de l’Écologie, du Développement durable et de l’Énergie (Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy)
TGAP: Taxe Générale sur les Activités Polluantes (General Tax on Polluting Activities)
TEOM: Taxe d’Enlèvement des Ordures Ménagères (Tax on the Removal of Household Refuse)