Try to guess this week’s French region: it starts with the C of circular economy and is completely encircled by water… You guessed it! Corsica! Let’s dive in.
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.
In short: Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean sea and the least populated region of France. The economy relies heavily on tourism, where a trend towards eco-tourism is emerging. The regional environmental agency, OEC, has gathered local stakeholders to collaborate and define a regional circular economy strategy. The implementation stage of the strategy has just started (in 2020), creating a good momentum for Dutch stakeholders to export knowledge and expertise on circular economy to Corsica.
Corsica in numbers
- 339 178 inhabitants (in 2019)
- or 0,5% of the French population
- 8 722 km2 surface area
- 8,6 billion euros GDP
- or 0,4% of the national French GDP
- 453 kilos of waste per inhabitant per year (vs. national average of 261 kilos)
- (only) 13% of household waste is recycled
Key economic sectors
Regional strategy and priorities
The island of Corsica is located in the Gulf of Genoa and characterized by a mountainous outline. As the third largest island in the Mediterranean in size, it is also the least densely populated with 38 inhabitants per km². The island population is largely concentrated on the coast, and in particular in the two big cities. The region has an important natural heritage. The Cap Corse Marine Natural Park, created in 2016, is the largest in metropolitan France.
The Corsican economy is driven by small companies, 95% of them have less than 10 employees. Most people work in the service sector, because of tourism, or in construction. Industrial activity in the region focuses on agriculture and energy.
The environmental agency of Corsica (L’Office de l’Environment de la Corse, OEC) supports the French national roadmap for circular economy* on the regional level. Since 2017, representatives from local organisations have formed a working group with six technical committees to (1) analyse the circular economy on the island, (2) form a strategy to improve the situation and (3) execute interventions. The working group should finish their analysis and action plan by the end of 2020. Their action plan will be executed between 2020-2024.
* Reminder: what are some of the most important CE goals for France?
- The amount of recycled waste needs to increase from 44% currently to 70% in 2030;
- and for metal, cardboard, paper, wood and glass 80% should be recycled;
- and plastic should be 100% recycled in 2025.
- Food waste should be diminished by 50% by 2030.
- The material footprint attributable to French consumption should be reduced by 30% in 2030
Corsica is currently taking its first steps to create awareness about sustainable procurement and eco-design, for example in the tourism and construction sector. Workshops and courses have been given to professionals about sustainable products, repairability and re-use of products. Moreover, the OEC supported setting up collective action to accelerate projects to create products-as-a-service. Also, some legal barriers preventing the extension of this principle, in which a consumer pays for use instead of ownership of a product, have been analysed and lifted.
Going forward, Corsica will focus on achieving the rest of its action plan between now and 2024. See the table below for an overview of actions and goals.
Despite having made progress, Corsica is still behind on the waste sorting and recycling goals. The total amount of household waste per inhabitant is 453 kilos per year, very high compared to the national average of 261 kilos. Moreover, only 56 kilos of waste per inhabitant are sorted for recycling, which means that only 13% of household waste can be recycled.
The current waste management situation on the island is precarious, due to the (partial) closing of the Viggianello landfill. Every day, the 12 000 inhabitants of the territory produce 20 tonnes of waste, but the waste centre can only allow 130 tonnes. Excess waste is being stored on 23 temporary, open air landfills in plastic bales. Some news outlets are speaking of a ‘waste crisis’.
Examples of CE
Luckily, there are also some inspiring examples of circular economy projects from Corsica. Companies, organisations and citizens are innovating to establish more sustainable consumption patterns. Some examples:
- The first recycled polo shirt
Two young Corsicans, Adrien Marchetti et Clément Vattè, a small company in their family home to produce recycled polo shirts called Scambià. The shirts are made from two materials: old clothes and plastic bottles. They collect these materials themselves, after which a factory in Spain recycles the cotton and plastic into new yarn. The knitting of the yarn is done in Lyon, and the assembly in Troyes. The result? A circular polo shirt from recycled materials, 100% made in Europe!
- Corsican cups
The Corsican company Bichjeru (the Corsican word for cup) offers circular, reusable and recyclable cups for big events, saving at least 80% of waste during an event! At for example festivals, sports matches and parties, instead of single use cups the Bichjeru cups stimulate circular consumption. The user pays a €1 deposit to use the cup, which is reimbursed upon return: sustainable consumption for free! The cups are made in Europe and can be fully personalized by the client, who can even choose to either rent or buy the cups.
The Corsican Development Fund is part of the EMBRACE project, short for European Mediterranean-clusters Boosting Remunerative Agro-Wine Circular Economy. This Interreg project gathers 10 organisations from the Mediterranean (MED) region, who work on embracing the circular economy since 2018. The main objective of the project is to support innovation in MED area according to CE principles. The target group are SMEs from the wine and agro-food sectors.
- Sustainable tourism
In 2019, 3 out of the 10 most sustainable hotels in France where from Corsica! The island is known for its natural parks and committed to sustaining the quality of its natural heritage. Therefore, local tourism should be in line with the regions sustainability goals and not harm the environment. The winner of the title “Most sustainable hotel in France” according to agency Butterfly Tourism is: L’Escale Plage in Algajola. The hotel works on reducing its water and energy consumption, uses renewable energy, has a sustainable waste management plan, and educates its guests on sustainable behavior. The tourism sector on Corsica has been an important economic sector for a long time and eco-tourism is on the rise as tourists are becoming more conscious of the environmental footprint of their travels.
Corsica has started on the road towards the circular economy. The fact that many stakeholders have come together to formulate a strategy for the region shows willingness, but many gaps remain. Still, gaps can also create opportunities for Dutch stakeholders to step in and help the Corsican economy become more circular.
The French environmental agency ADEME just opened a call for projects in the field of circular economy. Projects should have (1) a sustainable strategy, (2) optimize consumption and material management, and (3) interact with local players; the topics include many different angles of the circular economy (from eco-design to promoting sustainable tourism to food waste). There are two deadlines to apply: 3 April 2020 and 4 September 2020. More info available (in French) here.
In conclusion, 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.