The “anti-waste for a circular economy law”- What will change in the fight against waste in 2024?

In 2020, France produced 315 million tonnes of waste, according to Ademe. 213 million of this came from construction and 11 million was hazardous waste. However, while there was an 8% drop compared to 2018 (340 million tonnes), this can only be explained by a reduction in economic activity during the health crisis, according to experts.

Faced with this ecological emergency, it is imperative that businesses and industries rethink the way they consume and produce. Last year, we reported on the anti-waste for a circular economy law (or AGEC law). As a reminder, this law aims to move from a linear economy (produce, consume, throw away) to a circular economy by 2040. It sets ambitious targets for waste management and encourages eco-design. Since then, a number of new measures have been introduced. We take a look at them in this article.

Reminder: the AGEC law, the main points

Promulgated on 10 February 2020, the anti-waste law for a circular economy or AGEC law implements a national strategy for reduction, reuse and recycling, also known as the 3Rs strategy.  It encourages us to rethink our production models, in particular by encouraging manufacturers to anticipate the end-of-life of the products they put on the market. It sets out measures in five main areas.

1 – Moving away from disposable plastics

The first aim of the AGEC law is to put an end to the marketing of single-use plastics by 2040. It therefore gradually bans the use of certain products (plates, cups, straws, cutlery, cotton buds, confetti, etc.) and sets an initial target to be achieved by 2025:

  • A 20% reduction in single-use plastic packaging, with at least half achieved through reuse.
  • Aim for a 100% reduction in ‘unnecessary’ single-use packaging (e.g. battery blisters and light bulbs).
  • Aim for 100% recycling of this packaging to encourage the marketing of recyclable packaging that does not contain substances that limit the circular economy cycle.

The number of single-use plastic bottles is to be reduced by 50% by 2030.

Since 1st of January 2023, the anti-waste law has also prohibited fast-food outlets (fast-food restaurants, community and school restaurants, museum cafeterias, etc.) serving more than 20 covers at a time from using disposable crockery for meals eaten on site.

On 1st of July of the same year, packaging for fruit and vegetables packaged in batches of less than 1.5 kg was also banned, with the exceptions set out in decree no. 2023-478 of 20 June 2023.

2- Better informed consumers

To encourage the transition to a circular economy, the AGEC law aims to bring about a change in consumer behaviour, based in particular on better information for consumers, who will then be able to switch to more sustainable products or sort more efficiently.

To achieve this, the unique Triman logo must now appear on the packaging of recyclable products to make them easier to identify and to deposit in the yellow bin or at a collection point (shop or waste collection centre).

The law also requires a reparability index to be displayed for 9 product categories (smartphones, laptops, hinged and top washing machines, lawnmowers, televisions, dishwashers, hoovers and high-pressure cleaners), as well as the product’s environmental characteristics and information on products containing endocrine disruptors. This information must be made available on the Internet, in fully public access and free of rights (open data).

3- Combating waste and promoting solidarity-based re-use

The anti-waste law prohibits the disposal of unsold non-food products. Companies are therefore required to recycle or donate unsold food to associations. In the distribution and catering sectors in particular, food waste must be reduced by 50% by 2025 compared with 2015. By 2030 in the commercial catering sector.

Initially scheduled for 1st of January 2023, the end of the systematic printing of till receipts was postponed until 1st of April, before finally taking effect on 1st of August. From now on, tickets will be printed on demand for small everyday purchases.

4- Act against planned obsolescence

In France, 40 million items break down and are eventually disposed of. This is due to appliances that cannot be repaired and whose obsolescence is often programmed. In order to reduce the extraction of raw materials and the production of waste, while improving consumers’ purchasing power, the AGEC law aims to extend the life of products. In particular, this means encouraging repair and re-use. This is why the AGEC law requires the reparability index of electronic and electrical equipment to be displayed.

5- Better production

In line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, the AGEC law also strengthens extended producer responsibility (EPR) by requiring producers to finance the collection, treatment and recovery of waste from their products, via eco-organisations. New EPR channels have been added to the dozen or so that already existed before the law (medicines, electrical and electronic equipment, textiles, furniture, batteries and accumulators, certain chemicals, etc.):

  • In 2021 and 2022: tobacco products, toys, sports and leisure equipment, DIY and garden equipment, mineral and synthetic oils.
  • In 2023: building materials and cars, vans, 2- and 3-wheel motor vehicles and motorised quadricycles.

Some of these products are collected by eco-organisations at in-store kiosks for repair and refurbishment, thanks in particular to funds to finance re-use.

Failure to comply with these obligations is subject to penalties (article L. 541-9-5 of the Environment Code).

Looking to the future: new measures underway and to come

Since the beginning of 2024, new measures have been added to the previous ones:

Since 1st of January 2022, the AGEC law has prohibited the destruction of unsold non-food products. However, this only applied to products covered by an extended producer responsibility scheme, such as electrical and electronic products, batteries, textiles and hygiene and childcare products. Since 1st of January 2024, the ban has applied to all unsold non-food products.

With the recent decree no. 2024-134 of 21 February 2024, the product categories and minimum proportions of goods derived from reuse or incorporating recycled materials have changed.

  • For example, 20% of computer and telephone equipment must be reconditioned and 20% must incorporate recycled materials, per year.
  • 5% of sports articles and equipment must be second-hand and 20% must include recycled materials, per year.

EPR has been extended to 3 other sectors: single-use sanitary textiles, including pre-soaked wipes, tyres and professional catering packaging. It should soon cover non-biodegradable synthetic chewing gum.

Since 1st of January 2024, local authorities have been required to introduce source separation of biowaste for private individuals as part of their public waste management service.

Changes planned for 2025

From 1st of January 2025, new washing machines placed on the market will have to be fitted with plastic microfibre filters in order to protect the oceans from discharges of microplastics, which account for 15% to 31% of the 9.5 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the environment every year (according to the 2017 IUCN report).

Later the same year, EPR will be extended to fishing gear containing plastic and to industrial and commercial packaging. The sustainability index will replace the reparability index for certain electronic products, starting with televisions and washing machines. In addition to the ease with which they can be repaired, it will take into account the criterion of reliability (resistance to wear and tear, ease of maintenance and servicing, commercial guarantee and quality process). Finally, sorting bins will be deployed in public spaces (parks, streets, squares, etc.).

Planned for 2026

On 1st of January 2026, rinsed cosmetic products containing microplastics, such as shampoos, colouring products, shower gels and make-up removers, will be banned from sale.

The law also envisages support for virtuous companies that manufacture sustainable textiles, in particular from recycled materials. The recovery of biowaste into biogas should also become widespread. Finally, bonus-malus schemes on the contribution they pay to their eco-organisation will encourage manufacturers to eco-design and make their products more durable and recyclable: the amount of this contribution will be reduced if the product incorporates environmental criteria (bonus) or increased if it is highly polluting (malus).

AGEC law: businesses and industries must now initiate and anticipate change

The AGEC law marks the beginning of a circular economy policy that aims to put an end to all forms of waste in order to conserve resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since it was enacted in 2020, and in order for France to meet its circular economy targets, new measures are regularly being introduced.

For businesses and industries, this means making far-reaching changes to the way they consume and produce, particularly in terms of responsible and sustainable waste management, but also in terms of innovation and competitiveness, through eco-design for example.

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