Transition is underway and nothing will stop it. The Energy Transition Law for Green Growth (LTECV) sets precise quantitative targets in terms of sustainable production and consumption. Recycling of materials can be a real opportunity for businesses.
“Our societies have immobilised large amounts of materials throughout their development, for buildings, manufactured goods… This immense resource can still be mobilised”, says Jean-Charles Caudron, head of the department of products and material efficiency of the Ademe. With eco-design, the recycling of materials is thus a solution for the future to limit the use of virgin raw materials, which are becoming scarce.
A significant part of the LTECV focuses on circular economy, with quantitative targets. It thus provides visibility to businesses, including recyclers. To invest in a recycling facility, waste supplies, indeed, have to be ensured. One also has to make sure that markets exist to secure outlets for raw materials derived from recycling. “It’s impossible to create a plant without upstream flows or a downstream market”, recognises Serge Vassal, director of the Barbier company, who has set up a large collection and recycling system for agricultural plastics.
There are still other hindrances. Some specifications imposed by clients are very restrictive and de facto exclude raw materials derived from recycling, although such excess of quality required by clients is not always necessary. Moreover, SMEs and very small enterprises often have a hard time to process small amounts of waste.
Experiments are being conducted to improve such aspects. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Nantes Saint-Nazaire proposes coaching services, e.g. by mutualising collection for groups of businesses, as well as an electronic tool (ACT’IF), for the geo-location of streams, to ensure their availability. One’s waste can thus become others’ resource.
Regulations may also contribute to promoting the recycling of materials. The LTECV, in the first place, has been introduced to put an end to discrimination of products manufactured with raw materials derived from recycling. It is no longer possible, for equivalent technical quality levels, to refuse the use of secondary raw materials in a tender. Decrees for the application of the LTECV should be published by the end of the year.
Other avenues can be explored, such as the creation of a fund to dampen price volatility. Indeed, the recycling market suffers when prices of virgin raw materials are too low, as is currently the case. Support is necessary, according to professionals of the industry, especially at the start of a new waste management program, in particular for plastic, which is affected by the low price of oil. This fund could be fed by industrialists when prices go up. At last, a label could guarantee the quality of products.
Industrialists themselves should contribute to devising solutions. Sabine Zariatti, responsible for industrial partnerships of Suez Environnement, has thus been advocating the signing of long-term agreements between buyers and suppliers. They present the advantage, for recyclers, to provide them with a business plan, and for buyers, to secure their supplies.
LTECV: Loi de Transition Énergétique pour la Croissance Verte (Energy Transition Law for Green Growth)
ADEME: Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie (Agency for the Environment and Energy Management)