Welcome to the fourth blog in this series about the circular economy in French regions. We already zoomed into the seaside regions of Normandy and Brittany. This week, we move to the other side of the country. Which region is famous for its wine, cheese and mustard? That must be: Bourgogne-Franche-Comté! Let’s find out how its regional circular economy is developing, what are the priorities and opportunities.
This blog is written by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Paris and explains the opportunities for Dutch organisations in France in the field of circular economy.
BFC’s economy mainly runs on its manufacturing industry. Most important sectors are car manufacturing and materials such as metal and plastics. Still, the region is sparsely populated and its economic performance has been declining. A successful transition to the circular economy should make use of local expertise. Maintenance and creation of jobs will be an important issue.
BFC in numbers
- 2,8 million inhabitants (or 4,4% of the French population)
- 47 784 km² (or 9% of France’s) surface area (slightly bigger than the Netherlands!)
- Low population density (11th place out of 13 French regions)
- 73 billion euros GDP
- 378 million tonnes of household waste per year
- 35 million tonnes of waste from economic activity (but in reality much higher because the statistic excludes the construction sector – producing 8.17 million tonnes annually, agriculture, shops, offices and administration)
- 16 regional nature reserves:
- covering 4,863 hectares;
- or 9% of the total area of regional nature reserves in France.
Key economic sectors
- Metallurgy (i.e. science and technology for metal properties, production and purification)
- Transport equipment manufacturing (by companies such as PSA Peugeot Citroën)
- Agrofood (especially wine, cheese, beef and poultry)
- Rubber and plastic manufacturing
Research and innovation focus
The region has five competitiveness clusters where public and private stakeholders work together to innovate in their domain, being: plastic and composites (Plastipolis), agrofood innovation (Vitagora), micro-technical research (Pôle des Microtechniques), nuclear research (Nuclear Valley), cars of the future (Véhicule du Futur)*.
* The competitiveness cluster ‘Cars of the future’ (Pôle Véhicule du Futur) is a group that gathers companies and research institutes, with the support of public organisations, so they can collaborate on R&D projects. Hydrogen production, autonomous vehicle development and electric charging grids are important topics for the industry. But how can the industry enhance circularity? Here is a great example from Dutch ground (Hollandse bodem!):
Best practice from NL: Black Bear
The traditional car manufacturing sector in BFC is struggling and circularity is not yet high on its agenda. While in the Netherlands, we have a great example how car ‘waste’ can be turned into a new resource. Every year, more than 1.5 billion polluting end-of-life tires enter the global waste stream. Black Bear Carbon has a sustainable solution: upcycling tires into carbon black. Carbon black is in almost every black-coloured object you see, from phone cases, to the ink in your pens, to car tires!
Regional strategy and priorities
For the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (BFC), the circular economy is seen as part of their sustainable development transition. All French regions have to follow the national strategy (as explained here) and the regional waste plan. Still, each region is different and has its own challenges. For BFC, the three major challenges are:
- In pushing for the circular economy, there will be a change in BFC’s modes of production and consumption. Circularity is not all about recycling, but the highest in the waste hierarchy is eco-design. Eco-design makes it possible to avoid and limit waste, excess materials and pollution. This is a priority of the region and there are many great regional examples (as you will ready below). However, these changes should go hand-in-hand with the maintenance (and creation) of jobs in the region.
- The region and companies are developing new economic policies that necessary to support the circular economy. All economic sectors must be supported with (technological) research on new production processes concerning products, materials and equipment. With regards to waste, collection and sorting will make it possible to increase the productivity of recycling channels and incorporate the materials extracted into a new production cycle.
- BFC sees the circular economy as a predominantly regional challenge, because communities have an essential role in the management of resources. Hence, including local stakeholders is an important step towards circularity in the region.
Overall, the region aims to integrate prevention, management, recovery and recycling of waste in favour of the energetic and ecological transition. Still, circular economy goals are derived from the national guidelines. There is no regional strategy specified.
The plastic industry is an important one in BFC. But as we all know, plastics can cause a lot of harm to the environment. A circular economy for plastics should cover the whole waste system. Starting with eco-design, ensuring that – where possible – plastics are eliminated and replaced by bio-based, compostable alternatives, all the down to recycling. What is happening in BFC in these fields?
EU collaboration: circular plastic
Plastic waste can be a huge burden on the environment. Time for a circular solution! The European consortium CIRC-PACK is a three-year EU-funded project under the Horizon 2020 programme. It aims to transform plastic packaging waste into a resource. A total 22 partners from across the plastic packaging value chain collaborate, including: plastic suppliers, converters, retailers, waste recovery managers from the public and the private sector, research organisations and non-profit organisations. The partners come from six countries across Europe: Croatia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, France and the Netherlands.
- The French partner is: Plastipolis, the competitiveness cluster from BFC dedicated to the plastics industry. This organization gathers over 400 members and supports them in their innovation activities.
- The Dutch partner is: Bumaga, an SME based in Arnhem in the Netherlands. This company focuses on scouting innovation for the Dutch paper sector to bridge the gap between research and market implementation.
Together the partners are developing more sustainable, re-usable forms of plastic packaging, while supporting the market uptake of these solutions. CIRC-PACK will produce new biodegradable plastics using alternative bio-based raw materials. The second objective is developing smart eco-designs for these plastics. This will allow for better collection and recycling of multi-layer and multi-material packaging.
Textile fibers in plastic in… ping-pong rackets?
Plastigrey is a company based in BFC and specializes in plastic processing, specifically with plastics containing recycled or natural fibers. While Plastigrey works for a wide array of clients, including the car and medical industries, their newest innovation won a price their sustainable ping-pong racket. Plastigray supported its client Cornilleau in the design of the SOFTBAT®, the 1st eco-designed outdoor ping-pong racket in France incorporating textile fibers in plastics. 20% of the material consists of recycled textile fibers, enhancing not only the sustainability but also the mechanical characteristics of the racket!
The plastics manufacturer Renolit Ondex, in Chevigny-Saint-Sauveur, close to Dijon, looked into the life cycle analysis, from design to disposal, of its PVC products to reduce their environmental impact. They found several (!) technical solutions. By removing lead cadmium stabilizers, recycling of their PVC will be easier and contain less pollutants. Through research and innovation, new and more recycled materials can be incorporated in the PVC products.
Cutting waste = cutting costs
A manufacturer of metal packaging, Massilly, in Saône-et-Loire, found out that 14% of its production costs were used to manufacture waste. What a waste! This diagnosis was carried out within the framework of the “Lean and Green” program of the French environmental agency ADEME. By changing some processes on the manufacturing site, Massilly found a way to prevent metal sheets from being damaged and optimized the cutting of the sheet. Saving close to 260 tonnes of material / € 455,000 per year!
Waste to energy
Some waste can be a source of power, literally. This is where the circular economy touches the same ambitions as the energy transition. Through energy recovery, in the form of heat or electricity, waste can be used as a resource. This is a priority for BFC. Specifically, the region is supporting the putting in place of methanation installations. Methanisation transforms organic matter by consuming little energy, producing little sludge and generating renewable energy called biogas. Different types of waste are suitable for methanation, including bio-waste, urban sewage sludge, household waste and certain industrial waste represents an important axis of development in favor of the energy transition. There are more than 60 installations in the region, of which the vast majority is for agricultural waste, and some for the food industry, sewage sludge and mixed household waste.
In conclusion, in BFC circularity projects should focus on transforming the current manufacturing industry into a more sustainable one. Eco-design in on the top of the priority list. But recycling is also growing. These developments pose opportunities for Dutch stakeholders to enter the market or start collaboration projects. Interested? In order to move from knowledge to action, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) and the Embassy of the Netherlands in France are there for you. Did you know the Embassy has a network through all of France? Our representatives are not only located in Paris, but we also have two regional offices in Nantes and Lyon. Moreover, a large network of honorary consuls are present, from Marseille to Lille. All of us are available to Dutch organisations who have questions about doing business or research in France. So do not hesitate to contact us.