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  • Marie Mullen

Tackling food waste through a Circular Economy: France’s new “composte obligatoire” rules


France has implemented new "composte obligatoire" rules, making organic waste recycling mandatory for all households and businesses starting from January 1, 2024. Under these rules, all food and garden waste must be separated from other refuse and disposed of in a specific bin. Local authorities are required to inform residents about how to comply with the new rules and provide means for the disposal of this waste. While some local authorities already offer solutions such as door-to-door collection or special bin lorries, others are working to provide options for biowaste collection before the deadline.


The new rules aim to reduce the amount of compostable waste sent to landfills or incinerators, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Food and garden waste accounts for almost one-third of all household waste. When discarded, it typically ends up in landfills or incinerators, both processes that are greenhouse gas emitting. Food waste is estimated to be responsible for 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, only 34% of the total bio-waste of the European Union was collected, which left 40 million tons of waste to be discarded. In France alone, 82 kg of compostable waste is thrown away per person every year. By recycling organic waste into compost or bio-products, France seeks to minimize its environmental impact and promote a circular economy. 


The "compost obligatoire" rules are also in line with the EU’s Waste Framework Directive. Under this framework, member states are mandated to separately collect bio-waste from January 1st onwards. France’s efforts reflect a broader trend in Europe, where several countries have already adopted measures to separate and recycle bio-waste. For instance, Denmark, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium have introduced separate food waste collection programs, while the UK has announced plans to roll out similar initiatives. These initiatives help to meet the framework’s recycling goal, which states “the preparing for re-use and the recycling of municipal waste shall be increased to a minimum of 55%, 60% and 65% by weight by 2025, 2030, and 2035 respectively.” 


While the new rules impose obligations on both individuals and local authorities, no sanctions have been announced yet for households that fail to comply. However, the government is providing support to municipalities through the Green Fund to ensure that residents have access to the necessary infrastructure for bio-waste separation and recycling. This includes providing dedicated bins for organic waste and establishing facilities for its treatment and recycling.


Implementation of the new rule will look different based on your location in the country. In Paris, bio-waste collection has been experimented with since 2017. Partnered with Novamont, the city provides citizens with 36 disposable bags and a seven-litre bucket to store biowaste. The people then must put the biowaste in specified waste bins, usually found next to the recycling bins. Implementing the new compost rules will expand the experiment, making bio-waste recycling widely available across the city. Implementation in a large city will look different than that of a rural area. For example, in Saint-Lô, 85% of the population lives outside of the town center and therefore will be expected the manage their own compost needs. This means the town will not provide bins for organised bio-waste collection, you must dispose of it yourself in your compost scheme. For those living in the town centre, there is no current municipal collection scheme, but inhabitants are given €20 to purchase a compost bin. The mayor of Saint-Lô announced organized collection of compost bins will appear in the town next to the yellow recycling, but admitted to the transition being very slow. 


In France, the transition to mandatory organic waste recycling represents a significant step towards achieving a more circular and environmentally friendly economy. By ensuring that valuable resources are not wasted and that organic matter is returned to the soil through composting, the "compost obligatoire" rules are expected to contribute to the country's efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable practices. The new rules are set to have a significant impact on waste management practices in France, requiring households and businesses to adapt to the changes and participate in the country's transition to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious approach to waste management.


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