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France: New Anti-waste Law Adopted

(Mar. 20, 2020) On February 10, 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron signed into law Loi n° 2020-105 relative à la lutte contre le gaspillage et à l’économie circulaire (Law No. 2020-105 Regarding a Circular Economy and the Fight Against Waste). This law aims to help change the French society model “from a linear economy to a circular economy,” where waste is minimized and resources are reused as much as possible. This new economic model would 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 will be banned starting in 2021, including disposable straws and silverware, and polystyrene foam boxes for fast-food restaurants. In 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 included in Loi n° 2020-105 du 10 février 2020 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.