The waste management regulatory framework was set up in the context of a linear economy, to satisfy the need to preserve the control and traceability of waste streams, up to their recovery or final disposal. And hence, nowadays, the change of economic paradigm that is sought for with the policy of energetic transition aiming at a green growth goes hand in hand with the willingness to incorporate waste to the logic of circular economy. In this context, the question of waste status as a hindrance to the development of waste as a resource supposed to experience a new life cycle, with recycling and recovery, may be raised.
Guest speakers pointed out existing hindrances, in addition to the applicable regulation:
- Economic hindrances, as for example the use of raw materials may be preferred, depending on oil prices. The creation of economic instruments or the regulatory obligation to incorporate materials from recycling may be a solution.
- Social hindrances to the development of recycling, given uncertainties on the composition of waste that instil fear (and deter using alternative materials in the construction industry in particular). The greatest deal of environmental vigilance and communication on the promotion of expected environmental benefits are indispensable to try to overcome such hindrances.
Besides, as far as regulation is concerned, it was reminded that industrialists may already use waste instead of raw material in a process of authorised production, provided that the finished product has the same characteristics as a product made without waste. This is what is called implicit end-of-waste status (EWS).
It has been a widespread practice for glass or the regeneration of solvents, for example, as was specified during the workshop. There have long been markets for such waste, whose technical specifications are known. Practices that are already technically and economically well integrated are therefore just being confirmed with the EWS, and thus the benefits brought about by the recognition of non-waste status are not obvious.
The confusion about waste/non-waste status introduced by the framework directive, which created the EWS, is nevertheless a hindrance, in particular for waste producers, who may prefer disposal rather than a recycling circuit, on the ground that it will guarantee the extinction of their responsibility.
Therefore, the workshop participants, based on propositions and recommendations to the Minister of the Environment, Sustainable Development and Energy, propose the following:
1 – The publication of a notice in the Official Journal by the MEDDE officially stating the scope of the implicit EWS for production facilities using waste as a substitute for raw material. This would strengthen the feeling of legal security of concerned industrial players. In the same spirit, the development of an “Is it waste” type of tool at French or European level, which is already used in Great-Britain and in the Netherlands, would help industrialists carry out their own self-assessment of what is a waste or a sub-product.
2 – The adoption of generic EWS decisions for complete and current waste recovery operations, in relevant areas, e.g. waste preparation for complete reuse (of the ENVIE kind) and regeneration. It should be ensured, however, that the conditions retained be accessible to operators and do not constitute a hindrance.
3 – The adoption of EWS decisions, ideally at European level, as a national EWS is not recognised by other countries, whereas the objective is to facilitate integration into the European competitive market of recycled products.
If the grant of the EWS at European level proves to be too long or impossible, the possibility should be given to States to define EWS criteria together in relevant areas (based on the work carried out, e.g. by Great-Britain and the Netherlands).
Such elements could be proposed as part of the negotiation of the upcoming European circular economy package.
4 – The conduct of works on the notion of sub-product, which is still not used, at European level or, failing that, at French level as a first step, as it may facilitate recycling in some areas. The submission of such by-products to the “products” regulation allows avoiding legal loopholes and risks for the environment or health.
It is suggested that the BREF and the BAT define which industrial residues may be considered as by-products.
5 – The focusing of efforts on the technical characterisation of waste (materials, substances contained in waste), to improve its image and create outlets (by conferring waste a competitive value), without creating analytical constraints (e.g. construction waste).
6 – The renaming of the “Assises des Déchets” into the “Assises des Ressources”, to better take circular economy into account.
Platform “Is it waste”: https://isitwaste.org/equal/en
European Project Equal (Quality Protocols): https://www.gov.uk/guidance/turn-your-waste-into-a-new-non-waste-product-or-material
Framework directive: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/FR/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32008L0098