We are half way through our series on Circular Economy, explaining the opportunities for Dutch organisations in French regions. Out of 13 French regions that we blog about every week, lucky number 7 is: Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
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.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine in numbers
- 5 935 603 inhabitants (in 2016)
- 84 036 km2 surface area
- or 71 inhabitants per km²
- €168 billion euros GDP
- or 7.5% of the national French GDP
- 22 million tonnes of waste per year (equivalent to 6 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower!)
Key economic sectors
- Agriculture (wine, corn, poultry, fruit and vegetables, livestock)
- Aeronautics, space, defense
- Wood and paper
The regional economy
The region Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the biggest in France, with a surface area of 84 036 km2. Actually, it is bigger than Austria! The capital is Bordeaux, also a big city with almost 1 million inhabitants.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine lies in the Southwestern part of France and has 720 km of coastline. The region is sparsely populated (71 inhabitants per km²). While the population is aging the region remains attractive, especially for young adults and young retirees. Bordeaux has even been voted ‘Best city to work’ in France in 2019, for the 6th time in a row!
Moreover, it is the first European agricultural region. The agricultural sector employs 4.23% of workers, almost twice as high as the national average of 2.46%. Wine, corn, poultry, fruit and vegetables, and livestock products are the most important for the regional agro-food sector.
The region hosts six competitiveness clusters: in the fields of geo-technologies (Avenia), aerospace (Aerospace Valley), optics and lasers (Pôle de compétitivité Photonique et Hyperfréquences ), agriculture (Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation), wood-paper (Xylofutur), and ceramics (Pôle Européen de la Céramique).
And some regional clusters for sustainable building (Creahd), solar panels (Aquitaine Croissance Verte and Sysolia), drones (Aetos), equine industry (So Horse Alliance), surfing (Eurosima), wine industry (Innovin), e-health (TIC-Santé), satellite applications (Topos), health and biotechnology for cancer (Cancer Bio Santé CBS), automobile and aeronautics (Viameca) and smart electricity (S2E2).
Since 2013, the circular economy is a priority for the region. The aim is to limit the waste of resources and reduce the environmental impact of the economy by reducing, managing and recycling waste, and by promoting the efficient use and reuse of resources. Why? Because the demand for raw materials is expected to double worldwide by 2060, which will put twice as much pressure on the environment as it does today, while at the same time the amount of waste and the difficulty of waste treatment and recycling keep increasing.
What are the five axes of the ambitious regional CE strategy of Nouvelle-Aquitaine?
- Reduce consumption of goods and materials by promoting:
- Sustainable supply
- Sustainable procurement
- Making products last: reuse, redesign and repair
- Recycle materials:
- Construction waste
- Plastic waste
- Textile waste
- Deploy industrial and territorial ecology
- Create awareness, communicate, teach, research and develop knowledge and expertise.
And specifically? The region helps regional companies with financial aid (for example to strengthen the local recycling industry) and advice (in particular for eco-design and product life cycle analysis).
For example, Everglass, a glass recycler from Chateaubernard received financial support from the region to invest in new recycling equipment. The company is a leader on the French market for glass recycling. Their challenge? While they recycle 25% of glass in France, the smallest pieces of glass still escaped. The machines were not equipped to allow glass smaller than 5 millimeters to be recycled. So for years, small chips (0-4 mm) were stored and awaiting a solution. The solution came from one of its European factories, in Italy. New technology has made it possible to retrieve clean glass sand suitable for reuse by glass-makers from small fragments. Tests at the French factory were positive and with a little financial push from the region, Everglass decided to open a new sorting line for small glass fragments in Nouvelle-Aquitaine!
The RECITA network
In 2016 the ‘Circular Economy and Innovation Network in Nouvelle-Aquitaine’ (Réseau d’Economie Circulaire et d’Innovation en Nouvelle-Aquitaine, RECITA) was founded. The network has more than 610 members and supports the region’s transition to the circular economy. Support comes from the regional government and the French environmental agencies (ADEME and DREAL). What are the networks objectives?
- Bring together regional stakeholders committed to the development of the circular economy in the territories;
- Share a common goal for the circular economy;
- Enhance regional experiences and best practices;
- Contribute to the development of collaborative projects;
- Communicate on news, initiatives, developments and tools;
- Organize thematic and inter-sectoral events to enhance regional knowledge and expertise of the circular economy.
Moreover, the RECITA website hosts a lot of information about the initiatives of its members to accelerate the regional circular economy. Let’s look at some best practices!
Regional examples of circular businesses
- Hopaal: Fashion from 100% recycled material
The fashion brand Hopaal offers a full collection of women and men’s clothing made from 100% recycled material. Their motto for the future: the more we recycle, the less we destroy. The majority of Hopaal’s clothing is produced in Portugal, less than 1000km from the atelier in Biarritz. Their latest innovation is ‘the sweater of the future’ (le pull du futur) a merino wool sweater made from textile scraps, for which no additional virgin material was needed.
- REV: Circular tights
In France, every year 104 million pairs of tights are thrown away. That amount of waste, 7 300 tons, is equivalent to the weight of the Eiffel Tower! That is why two former students of Sciences Po in Bordeaux started the first French brand for tights made with recycled fibers: REV. The entrepreneurs started a crowdfunding campaign and are now producing the tights in the north of Italy. The factory sources recycled polyamide yarn from waste in a nearby factory, from textile scraps that would have otherwise ended up in the trash. The tights are now available for sale and soon REV will offer a recovery service, to make sure that they can be properly recycled again later on.
- Vignerons de Buzet: Drink sustainably
Vignerons de Buzet is a wine maker, who embarked on the complex task of performing a life cycle analysis of one of its wines: Baron d’Albret red wine in a wooden case. They measured the environmental impacts of different aspects of grape growing, winemaking, manufacturing glass bottles and cases, transportation and recycling. The results? Changes were made to the agricultural practices (such as eliminating chemical fertilizers) and many improvements were found for the wine’s packaging, such as:
- A zero-carbon plant-based cork made from sugar cane polymer
- Reusable wine cases: the wooden wine cases are designed to be transformed into birdhouses, magazine stands, serving trays or cutting boards!
- And lightweight bottles to reduce transport emissions.
- Cyfruileg: Recycling fruit and vegetables
Cyfruileg collects and transforms unsold fruits and vegetables from supermarkets. Nothing is lost, everything is transformed! Cyfruileg created a creative circular loop: (1) collecting unsold fruits and vegetables from local supermarkets, (2) transforming them into jams, juices and soups, and (3) reselling them in these same supermarkets in the Poitou-Charente area. The results so far (since June 2018)? Already 16 802 kilos of fruit and vegetables recycled in to 3 806 soups, 13 609 jars of jam, and 2 975 liters of juice.
- La Bourse aux déchets: Waste exchange
At the waste exchange (La Bourse aux déchets) in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, professionals, associations and individuals can offer and find waste materials, such as left over construction material, garden waste, etc. By posting an ad on the online platform, demand and supply are linked for free. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure!
In conclusion, these developments show the developments in the regional circular economy and could 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 (with Nouvelle Aquitaine as part of its territories) 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.
Sources: INSEE, Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, European Commission Regional Innovation Monitor