Thursday, 22 July, 2021

Anti-waste law: why is the deposit of plastic bottles so controversial?


The bill on lutte against waste and for the circular economy arrived this Monday, December 9 in front of the National Assembly. This river text provides for a multitude of measures to green the daily lives of citizens: fight against food waste, against plastic, against planned obsolescence … But among all these measures, one of them is getting all the attention: that of the deposit of plastic bottles. Presented as a flagship measure of the law, it is now the subject of all controversy.

The measure was initially introduced in article 8 of the bill. In its first version, the possible “obligation for producers or their eco-organization to implement deposit systems for the reuse, reuse or recycling of products consumed or used by households” was provided for in the territory. that is to say to oblige the companies which produce packaging, such as plastic bottles, to set up or finance deposit systems to facilitate their treatment, in a principle of responsibility of the producers of waste. The bill intended in particular to push the deposit for recycling, by charging consumers between 10 and 25 cents more for their drink, a sum that would be returned to them if they brought back their empty plastic bottles for recycling.

The goal? Achieve a rate of 77% collected for the recycling of plastic bottles in 2025 and 90% recycled plastic bottles by 2029, compared to 58% recycled bottles only today. An objective set by the European “single use plastic” directive.

For the government, as for Citeo, the company approved by the State for the recovery of packaging and household paper under the extended responsibility of producers – “the yellow bin company” as defined by its managing director Jean Hornain – the The deposit of plastic bottles is a “particularly effective” collection lever, which will allow France to reach its goal of recycling plastic bottles. In Germany or the Netherlands, similar systems have already enabled these countries to reach 90% collection.

However, chaos seems to reign around this measure. Rejected by senators in September, the government tried to reintroduce it in the sustainable development committee, but the deputies finally withdrew it again from the project. Since then, Brune Poirson, the Secretary of State for the Ecological Transition who carries the law for the circular economy, has already announced that she intended to reintroduce it in plenary session in the Assembly. Why is this measure so debated?

“Angry communities”

It is especially communities and recycling companies that remain fundamentally opposed to the deposit of plastic bottles. Nicolas Garnier, the general delegate of Amorce, an association which represents local authorities (2/3 of its members) and private local actors, sees in the plastic deposit “a false debate”: “If we want to s’ tackling plastic waste, we must above all avoid waste, not recycle it. Finally, the manufacturers who approve of the deposit are fighting to save the plastic bottle. “

Communities also fear for their waste management system: “Communities are angry because for 30 years we have invested, we have encouraged a sorting gesture and overnight we will monetize a type of waste. what that will entail, will people not demobilize themselves on the other waste? The deposit risks disrupting what has been put in place. ” And when they are accused of rejecting the measure so as not to lose the income from the sale of plastic waste to recycling players, communities deny: “Waste management costs communities 8 billion euros, the loss linked to plastic would be between 100 and 200 million, it is little, so there is not the question “, slice Nicolas Garnier.

Recycling versus reuse

Instead of the deposit dedicated to recycling, Amorce thus defends the development of the deposit for reuse, which consists in bringing back reusable containers, such as glass bottles, so that they are washed and then reused, in exchange for the return of ‘part of the purchase price. A solution also acclaimed by environmentalists, who question the will of the government (and the European directive) to tackle plastic only through recycling.

“We want the law to give priority to reuse and are opposed to the model aiming only for the recycling of plastic bottles and aluminum cans, which keeps us in the era of all disposable”, had first declared a collective of NGO bringing together Zero Waste, WWF or Friends of the Earth, in a Tribune published in The world in September.

For environmentalists, the measure desired by the government can only be effective if it fits into a global system, in which the plastic recycling instruction must accompany a transition to reuse, as Nicolas Hulot recalled.in a tweet on November 23:

If the plastic deposit allows the establishment of a global deposit system for recycling and reuse which today lacks infrastructure, then yes the deposit is a very interesting lever “, pleads Laura Chatel, responsible for mission for the NGO Zero waste, which says that the government has heard it on this point, but remains cautious about what will actually be included in the law.

Faced with questions and demands, the government, which already has to face the very strong dispute on the pension reform, is playing the card of appeasement. “On a sensitive subject such as that of the deposit of plastic bottles, nothing will be done without the agreement of the mayors”, assured Emmanuel Macron during the congress of mayors of France on November 19. It seems that the government and the communities finally reached a compromise on November 28: the plastic deposit could be set up in experimentation only in the voluntary communities until 2023, then re-studied. Why not, say the NGOs, on condition that investments for reuse are made by then. In the meantime, the deputies have until December 20 to decide.

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