Welcome to the new series of blogs ‘The Circular Economy: Opportunities in France for Dutch stakeholders’. Every week, the circular economy in a different French region will be highlighted. The goal is to explain to you – the Dutch ecosystem – what the priorities, expertise, challenges and collaboration opportunities with regards to circular economy in France are. So make sure you are subscribed to this blog to stay up to date!
In the past years the conceptualization of a circular economy made huge progress. We all know what it is, right? So now it’s time to implement circularity throughout the economy. With this goal in mind, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Paris has been organising many events and knowledge exchanges, from post-consumption materials handling to circular purchasing, from cars to clothing. The proactive energy between France and the Netherlands on circular economy is reaching new heights, and with this blog series we give you new inspiration to collaborative action throughout France and its regions. Together we can make our efforts grow to European proportions!
This week we start with a general overview of the circular economy on the national level, explaining the challenges and opportunities, especially for international collaboration between Dutch and French stakeholders. How do we reach our common goal of a circular economy in 2050? By working together, sharing best practices, scaling up successful projects and closing resource loops everywhere – from local and regional to international levels!
How does France define the circular economy?
The French Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (ADEME) defines the circular economy according to seven pillars:
- Sustainable supply
- Industrial and Regional Ecology (IRE)
- Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) System
- Sustainable consumption
- Extending the duration of use (re-use, repair, and re-utilization)
The circular economy’s pillars address both environmental gains and economic viability. In the long-term, especially in the light of future supply risks and pressures on raw material and energy prices, the circular economy offers economic players the opportunity to improve their business model. Improving processes and products and establishing sustainable supply flows are crucial. There are many steps companies and research institutes can take to become increase circularity. For example by transforming:
- neighbors into partners (using IRE);
- clients into supplies (based on a reversed supply chain);
- products into services (by shifting towards a Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) System);
- brands into communities (with collaborative consumption structures).
Did you know that the Netherlands and France already have many different circular collaboration projects? A nice example is the Dutch Green Deal approach, where the national government sets up a project with circular goals together with industry and knowledge institutes. Dutch experts shared this experience with the French and trained a team how to do this themselves. It worked because the French were interested and open to learn. Or as Marline Weber from the INEC explains: “The Dutch Green Deal approach was really our inspiration, and without this proof of success, we would not have launched our own operational program with the Great Paris Area (Metropole du Grand Paris) and the Responsible Procurement Observatory (ObsAR), which is an example of good practice in France now.” (Read the full interview with Marline and our Dutch circular economy expert Joan Prummel here).
How circular is France now?
Like the Netherlands, France is on its way to establish the circular economy, although some challenges remain. There is a low level of resource value retention. In 2014, the rate of recovery of household and similar waste was 39%. The rest, half of which is organic waste, is therefore incinerated or landfilled, which leads to local environmental pollution and energy waste. As for plastics, on average 55% of plastic bottles is collected and 20% of plastic packaging is actually recycled, whereas the EU average is 30%.
What are the policy plans to make France circular?
In the Circular Economy roadmap of France: 50 measures for a 100% circular economy the following priorities are highlighted:
- Reduce natural resource use related to French consumption: 30% reduction in resource consumption in relation to GDP between 2010 and 2030.
- A 50% reduction in the amount of non-hazardous waste land-filled by 2025, compared to 2010.
- Aim towards 100% of plastics recycled by 2025.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: avoid the emission of 8 million additional tonnes of CO2 each year thanks to plastic recycling.
- Create up to 300,000 additional jobs, including in new professions.
What measures is the government taking?
Recently the French Parliament’s lower chamber passed a law with different measures to stimulate the circular economy, such as:
- A ban on all single-use plastic products and packaging after 2040.
- The obligation for producers to inform consumers about the repairability of electric and electronic products, in order to increase the rate of repaired products by 60 percent in the next five years.
- New extended producers’ responsibility (EPR) schemes — part of the “polluter pays principle” that is a key element of the EU’s circular economy action plan. These will now cover the construction, gardening and sports and leisure sectors, as well as toy manufacturers and the tobacco industry.
- It will be forbidden for retailers to throw away unsold (non-food) products; in addition to the already existing ban on the destruction of unsold food products.
How are French stakeholders working together?
On a national level, several groups of public and private stakeholders exist to accelerate the circular economy. Often they get together in working groups to discuss new opportunities, tackle barriers and pilot new circular projects together in their respective industries.
The National Institute for the Circular Economy, INEC, aims to promote the circular economy and accelerate its development through collaborative dynamics. The multi-stakeholder organization unites over 200 members from public and private organizations: companies, federations, communities, institutions, associations, NGOs and universities. The diversity of these members allows us to nurture a holistic vision of the circular economy.
The actions of INEC revolve around 3 axes:
- Facilitation of reflection: organizing working groups and writing studies and reports.
- Promotion of the circular economy: advocacy, communication and events.
- Implementation: sharing of good practices, specific support for territories and training.
In addition to INEC’s national work, the institute was selected to be part of the European platform for stakeholders in the circular economy, launched on November 22, 2017. This platform, jointly piloted by the European Commission and the European Economic Social Committee (EESC) goal :
- to promote a global circular economy network in Europe, promote awareness and exchange good practices and experiences;
- identify obstacles to the development of the circular economy through exchanges and the development of multi-stakeholder networks;
- strengthen political dialogue between political leaders and stakeholders.
Secondly, ORÉE is a large multi-stakeholder association for circular economy. Created in 1992, ORÉE gathers, supports and equips their network of more than 180 members including: companies, communities, professional and environmental associations, academic and institutional organizations, around three priorities:
- Biodiversity and economics, or how to integrate biodiversity into the strategy of organizations;
- Circular economy covering the approaches centered on products / services / equipment (functionality economy, eco-design), sectors (recycling / recovery) and territories (industrial and territorial ecology);
- CSR reporting in connection with French and European guidelines and regulations on the publication of extra-financial information.
ORÉE’s members co-construct and share experiences to bring out new ideas, concrete solutions, as well as recommendations on each of its priorities. The group supports its members with practical and collaborative tools by organizing working groups and facilitating publications, web platforms and collaboration projects. And the link with the Dutch ecosystem is already strong, because in 2017 ORÉE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with our own national circular economy foundation: Holland Circular Hotspot!
Which opportunities are there for international collaboration?
France and the Netherlands both have ambitious plans to establish the circular economy. In the Netherlands, we have been working on circular business models and value retention policies for a long time, acknowledging the fact that ecology and economy can go hand-in-hand. Hence, Dutch companies, research institutes and public organisations are often cited by French stakeholders as a source of inspiration. This poses a great opportunity for international collaboration. Some tips to explore the French market are:
- Be informed: read up on the government plans, for example by reading this blog, as the policy plans reflect which sectors are priorities in their effort to establish the circular economy. And with priorities, come more financing opportunities.
- Find your crowd: look into the list of circular economy clubs and find which fits best with your sector or expertise.
- Network network network: get in touch with a relevant French circular economy club or company if you see a commonalities in your and their work. Opportunities exist, for example to organize study visits in the Netherlands and France, to be a speaker at an event, to share expertise and collaborate on research or pilot projects, but finding the right people can be challenging step. Investing in your French network is key.
- Get support: the Embassy of the Netherlands in France can help Dutch companies and research institutes find French business partners by providing information, tips and tricks (such as this blog or in sector reports), organising network opportunities (such as trade missions and conferences), helping you find financing opportunities (through the RVO.nl) or introducing you to potential research (e.g. to set up a Horizon Europe project) or business partners. Please send an email to Leontine Schijf (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.