Biological recycling of wastes in France: from crisis to new management principles and rules

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Courtesy of Courtesy of ORBIT e.V.

In 1992, the context of waste management in France has changed with the publication of a second law that defined the framework of the new public national policy. This law has opened a ten years transition plan, but two main points have been modified. First, the place of landfilling has moved from a status of treatment process in competition with incineration or composting to the role of storage equipment dedicated to the ultimate waste. Second, a specific strategy for household packaging waste has been developed including recycling ratio engagements and a specific financial mechanism based on industrial contributions to develop both municipal collections and market recycling.

The combination of these two decisions has deeply modified the former domestic waste management system. The 1992 - 1997 period has seen the development of a two bins collection system, one for packaging and the other, of course, for the rest. Typically, the packaging wastes are transported to sorting plants, which aim to supply recycling chains and the rest, with the non recycled part of the sorting plants, to incinerators, which supply storage landfills with ultimate wastes. This simple management system, built around packaging recycling and ultimate storage, completely ignores the biological solutions. After 5 years, the prospective analyses show that it will induce a significant development of incineration, will not be applicable to most of rural areas, will not take in account all the kinds of wastes, will be very expensive... New instructions from the Ministry for Environment were given in August1998, which limit the place of incineration and draw attention on the biological solutions.

In 1992, the situation of municipal sludge management was approximately the following one:
- National production: 800.000 tons of dry matter but increasing (expected production at the beginning of the
new century: 1.200.000 tons DM)
- 60 % spread on agricultural lands, 30 % to landfills, 10 % to incineration

If the 1992 law on waste management hasn't considered the problem of sludge as a basic waste problem, most of the specialists have seen that sludge even treated is far from ultimate and storable on long periods without evolution. So, the prospective analyses used to predict a development of the part of sludge going to lands with a development of the total production.

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