Although the bulk of waste is now recovered and treated in adequate conditions, some bad practices are still prevailing. Somme waste is still left on the side of the road and sometimes exported or used illegally, and often ends up in the oceans. Such practices are difficult to quantify and to control, as they combine minor offences and much more organised systems. Here-below is a summary of discussions held in Worskhop 3 of the Assises.
The controls carried out by various administrations give the whole picture. Customs, as part of a mission of Interpol that was conducted this year, registered 358 offences committed in France in the transfer of waste, i.e. an increase by 39% compared to 2015. The services that inspected classified facilities visited 2,130 treatment facilities for end-of-life vehicles in six years: they issued 750 formal notices and shut down 145 illegal sites.
The theft of metals and cables on railways have direct and indirect costs, i.e. the replacement of cables on the one hand and, on the other hand, the compensation of users. More generally, bad practices are often minor everyday-life incivilities – like cigarette butts or packages thrown on the floor and recovered at sea by the Surfrider Foundation – or practices of businesses, often small ones, which are unable to deal with hazardous products. Communication and awareness raising are thus badly needed. A number of local authorities have been trying to cope with that, like the Cellule de Prévention (COPR) of Nantes Métropole, which has been focusing on enhancing the coverage of its territory to promote awareness raising among small businesses.
In the face of private individuals’ and businesses’ bad practices, awareness raising or community-based solutions like organising signalisation can make the difference. But sanctions, albeit necessarily gradual, may not be excluded, as they have proved to be efficient thanks to their impact on individuals’ “wallets”… Local governments thus avail of new tools – fines and penalties – that often allow to quickly put an end to bad practices. But criminal proceedings must also remain an option against mafia-type systems and organised trafficking.
The streamlining of initiatives is necessary, for example, for cross-border waste metal streams, as payment in cash, in some bordering countries, create attractiveness, the flight of materials and deadweight effects. Likewise, we know that impurity levels accepted for some products with a view to their recycling, which vary from one country to another, create undesired waste streams. Stakes of international waste streams management and control are high. The European Life Smart Waste project, which aims at coordinating the expertise and practices of national environment agencies to better fight waste-related cross-border crime, is an exemplary action.
> Please also read the summary of the Workshop drawn up during the Assises: Putting an end to bad practices