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Waste management

In accordance with article L.541-2 of the environmental code, producers are responsible for the waste they produce. State council order of 13 July 2006, relative to the SMIR company, confirmed that the waste producer or holder remains responsible for its proper disposal, even if he entrusts this operation to a third party and pays this third party.

There is one exception to this rule, in the case of household waste disposed of by municipalities (article L.2224-13 of the general local authority code). Municipalities can also treat waste from other origins produced by artisans, retailers etc. provided that the waste disposal is not subject to any specific technical requirements (article L.2224-14 of the general local authority code).

Finally, article L.541-10 states that the producers (manufacturers, importers) of the goods which generate waste can be forced to dispose of or help dispose of these goods. This is referred to as the producer’s extended responsibility. Decrees should specify the application conditions of this principle to make it operational, which has already been done for batteries and accumulators, used tyres, end-of-life vehicles, waste electrical and electronic equipment and unsolicited printed materials.

Total waste production in France was approximately 850 million tons in 2004 (source: ADEME), including:

  • 40% for the construction sector,
  • 43% for agriculture and forestry
  • 11% for companies
  • 1% for hazardous industrial waste,
  • 2% for local authorities,
  • 4% for household
  • 0.2% for healthcare activities.

Depending on waste characteristics and collection systems implemented (selective waste collection, waste recycling banks, waste drop-off centre, etc.), different treatment solutions are possible: recovery, material recycling, biological, physical-chemical treatment, incineration or landfilling.

  • Recycling is the return of products previously considered as waste to their original production process or as raw materials to manufacture new products in other processes. After a production process, the raw material is regenerated then transformed into new products with different outlets. Recycling is a way to reuse several times the original raw material of the products transformed, thereby guaranteeing material recovery, unlike incineration or energy recovery.
  • Biological treatments involve micro-organisms which transform the fermentable organic material into more stable products which can be used as organic soil conditioners, crop support, fertiliser or landfilled. There are two types of fermentable material degradation:
    • With oxygen: aerobic treatment, mostly composting.
    • Without oxygen: anaerobic treatment, referred to as methanisation.
  • Physical-chemical treatments can be applied to all waste sources, whether hazardous, non-hazardous or inert. They can also be combined with other treatments to improve their efficiency. They affect one or several physical-chemical properties of the waste. The main treatments involve:
  • Phase separation: centrifugation, filtration, settling etc.;
  • Material separation: fine screening, metal extraction;
  • Change of state: crushing, solidification etc.;
  • Extraction: thermal desorption, aeration, scrubbing;
  • Chemical transformation: oxidation, precipitation, neutralisation.

Examples: creation of aggregates from demolition waste, maturation platforms for bottom ash from household waste incineration, industrial wastewater treatment.

  • Thermal or incineration treatments relate to household and similar waste, sludge from wastewater treatment plants, healthcare waste and hazardous industrial waste. There are different incineration processes: grate furnace, roller furnace, fluidised bed furnace, pyrolysis and thermolysis.
  • Thermal treatment, when combined with energy recovery, facilitates the waste-to-energy process by producing electricity and/or heat. Energy recovery can apply to all types of waste undergoing thermal treatment. In cement plants, it is possible to replace part of the fossil fuels (fuel oil, coal etc.) by waste with high calorific value.
  • The use of bottom ash from household waste incineration in road engineering is the most significant.