This next two weeks Amanda’s challenged us to think about about recycling and specifically what you or your country does. Consequently, this next two weeks is going to be more narrative than photogrpahic, although I do frequently recycle my photos!
Let me tell you about what happens in France.
In France, household waste and rubbish collection is managed by the local authorities. They establish and facilitate a local waste charter, including recycling proposals. In general, most French households are expected to separate compost-type waste (e.g. food and garden waste) from paper, plastic and glass waste that can be recycled. Separate bins are provided for different types of waste – either for every home in larger areas where bins are collected weekly from individual houses, or bigger collective bins situated in key cluster areas in villages and rural areas, and for apartment blocks. Increasingly, many local authorities are also implementing ways to reuse compost waste.
Other rubbish or unwanted household items – such as textiles, furniture and electrical products – should be taken by the household responsible direct to the local tip (déchètterie), where there are also different skips for different types of products. There are more than 4,500 tips across France, most of which have links with local recycling organisations that work to repair, reuse or find new homes for unwanted or slightly damaged objects.
Local shops such as boulangeries and butchers help French people buy local (c) RossHelen / Getty Images
France was arguably later than some of its European neighbours in developing an organic food market (or bio food as it is labelled in France) but today there are numerous organic food shops as well as dedicated organic food aisles in all the French supermarkets.
On the other hand, France is undoubtedly ahead of many countries when it comes to food air miles. Nearly every village still has a local butcher (who sources meat and poultry locally, and often makes their own pâtés and saucisson), one if not two local boulangeries baking fresh bread every day, and of course the weekly market where stallholders sell fresh local produce and cheese. Not forgetting either that most of the wine sold across the country comes from French vineyards.
Plus the French are careful to prevent food waste. In 2016, France became the first country to ban its supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Excess food that is in or just past its sell-by date must be donated to charities, food banks or used as animal feed.
A growing phenomenon in France is a type of second-hand recycling ‘shop’, known as a ressourcerie. These organisations collect unwanted objects that are in reasonably good repair, either brought direct by previous owners or passed on by the local tip. They either resell these items at very low prices as they are, or carry out repairs or ‘reinvent’ their use for sale at a more marketable price. For example, recycled coffee packets might be made into carry bags. They also provide employment, usually working with the job centre (Pôle emploi) to help disadvantaged people into the workplace, and often run recycling workshops.
Recent and Future Government Changes
In February last year, French President Emmanuel Macron signed into law a new economic model aiming to change French society model from a linear economy to a circular economy, where waste is minimised and resources are reused as much as possible. This new economic model will feature a low consumption of nonrenewable resources, the reuse of waste as a resource, products that have a longer useful life, the recycling of 100% of plastics and less wastefulness.
The law establishes some concrete goals, such as a 15% decrease in household trash per inhabitant by 2030 and a 5% decrease in waste from economic activity. The law also sets the goal of recycling 100% of plastics by 2025, and the end of single-use plastic packaging by 2040. While some further legislative and regulatory action will be needed to attain those goals, the Law also includes specific measures to that end. Several common items were banned from this year, including disposable straws and silverware and polystyrene foam boxes for fast-food restaurants.
From 2022, selling fruits and vegetables in plastic packaging for portions under 1.5 kilograms will be illegal, and buildings open to the public will be required to have water fountains. In 2023, fast-food restaurants will no longer be allowed to use disposable plates and cups for on-premise consumption of food and beverages. The new law also aims to improve the collection of recyclable plastics, including by expanding refund systems.
This new law also includes provisions to better inform citizens on the environmental characteristics of consumer products. Product packaging will no longer be allowed to display terms such as “biodegradable” or “respectful of the environment.” To fight against the practice of planned obsolescence, certain electric and electronic products must display a “reparability rating” starting in 2021, and a “durability rating” starting in 2024. Additionally, starting in 2021, computer and cellphone manufacturers must inform buyers of the time frame during which their devices are subject to operating software updates. This measure reinforces current legislation that Apple was recently found to have violated because it failed to inform consumers that updating the iPhone’s operating system could cause older models to slow down.
Another important measure is the prohibition on the destruction of unsold non-food inventory, such as clothing, shoes, beauty products, books, or consumer electronics. Manufacturers, distributors, and stores with unsold inventory will be required to donate or recycle it instead of incinerating it or dumping it in landfills. Additionally, the law expands incentives for manufacturers to design their products to be more easily recyclable.
This new law also takes aim at illegal waste dumping by making it punishable by a fine of up to 15,000 euros (approximately US$16,760) and the impounding of the vehicle that was used for the illegal waste dump.
The Prime Minister reiterated the commitment to sustainability in a speech at the National Assembly:
I believe possible a new economic model that produces wealth, and therefore employment, without spoiling, contaminating or destroying. We must invent an economic model where energy sobriety, clean transportation, healthy eating, and recycling are growing much faster than the rate of growth.
This year the girls are are opening up the challenge, making its focus not purely on photography but making it a little more varied, a little more open and interesting.
Are you joining in this year? Go on……you know it’ll be fun!