Circular economy in an industrial economy, is that possible? Pays de la Loire shows that it is! From airplanes to agriculture, the region has many inspiring examples of circularity strategies that work on an industrial scale. Read the blog to find more about the region’s transition to a circular economy.
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.
Pays de la Loire in numbers
- 77 million inhabitants
- Making it the 8th most populated region in France (out of 13 regions)
- 106.7 billion euros GDP (in 2014)
- or 5% of the national GDP
- 32 082 km2 surface area
- 11 200 000 tonnes of waste per year in total
- Making it the 1st region for the (low) quantity of residual household waste!
Key economic sectors
- Shipyard industry
- Plastic industry
The regional economy
Pays de la Loire in the west of France is a coastal region, bordered by four other regions (Brittany, Normandy, Centre – Val-de-Loire and Nouvelle-Aquitaine). The regional capital is Nantes, where the Embassy of the Netherlands is regionally present, because we have a dedicated Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO) to support all Dutch companies who are looking to expand their business to western France.
The economy specializes in several industries (over 25% of jobs are in industry compared to the French average of 20%), such as shipyard industry, aeronautics, plastic, leather and textile; agriculture (the region has the second biggest agro-food sector of France in terms of employment); and insurance services.
Within the national strategy, Pays de la Loire also defined regional priorities to accelerate the circular economy. ADEME, the French environmental agency, supports the region in this transition. Their objective is to establish a circular economy that takes advantage of the assets of the region, especially the complementarity between rural and urban areas.
Recent developments include:
- collection of bio-waste (food and agricultural waste);
- improvement of recycled plastic use;
- glass bottle deposits;
- obligation for all companies and organisations to separate waste for recycling into five categories: paper/cardboard, wood, glass, plastic and metal.
Sustainable public procurement
There is a special regional network for sustainable public procurement: RESECO. Out of total French GDP, public procurement represents 10%. Therefore, it is a powerful lever to push for sustainable products and services. The network makes it easier for organisations who have to adhere to public procurement (such as government organisations, public schools and hospitals) to buy more sustainable products. That can be a complex tasks for such organisations to do themselves, as many legal and budgetary aspects are involved. Hence, RESECO facilitates knowledge exchange and networking between its members to make it easier for organisations to find sustainable procurement solutions. The network is not only active in Pays de la Loire, but also in Brittany and Centre-Val-de-Loire.
In the circular economy, the R of repair is much higher on the R-ladder (the order of priority for circularity strategies) that than recycling. Why? Reparations keep products in use for longer and prevent them from becoming wasted. Répar’Acteurs is a national French network of craftspeople who can fix stuff! From electronics, jewelry and furniture to guitars and bicycles, the online platform makes it easy for people all over France to find a place for repairs. And in Pays de la Loire, there are more than 4 300 places on Répar’Acteurs.
Extended producer responsibility (EPR)
In France, producers are responsible for the waste that their products create. This is called Extended producer responsibility (EPR). There are several EPR contribution collectors per sector. For packaging, Citeo is in charge of the EPR for household packaging waste. The French system is based on the ‘polluter pays’-principle. Companies that sell packaged products are responsible for the costs associated with their end-of-life (i.e. waste management and recycling); they are charged an ‘eco-contribution’. With those funds, Citeo invests in the collection, sorting and recycling of packaging waste and works with associations and brand owners to improve recycling rates and decrease littering. Moreover, they are engaged in awareness-raising campaigns and actively support citizens initiatives that fight against marine litter. In Pays de la Loire, Citeo also works on the development of an efficient waste recycling system. Out of 250 national collaborators, a team of 15 is located in Angers. What are their regional priorities?
- Eco-design: Citeo offers services for companies, such as training, diagnostics, sharing of best practices, etc.) to favour recycled materials in packaging.
- Territorial transition to the circular economy: Citeo invests in the modernization and expansion of sorting and recycling centers in French territories, such as Pays de la Loire.
- Innovation: Citeo works with stakeholders (for example with companies and universities) to identify challenges and find innovative solutions.
Best practices from the region
In Pays de la Loire, many industrial companies are present. Do they also work on circular economy? Of course! Let’s look at some inspiring examples:
The Airbus facility in Nantes is specialized in the manufacturing of aeronautic equipment, such as wing boxes, air outlets and radar protectors for its entire range of aircrafts. With more than 3000 employees in Nantes and 2900 in Saint-Nazaire, the region is the second most important location for the company in France. And what about the circular economy? Of the 12000 tonnes of waste Airbus Nantes produces every year, 8000 tonnes stem from aluminum shavings from manufacturing metal parts. Luckily, those can be recycled (in this case by Paprec). The rest of the waste is collected and recycled by Suez, which set up an industrial waste park on the Airbus site in Nantes. Plastics and cardboard are recycled and other waste is turned into energy. Moreover, they set up a circular waste system for water recycling. A lot of water is used to treat the protective surface of metal parts against corrosion. That water is collected and reused for the same process, instead of being discarded as waste. Lastly, what remains a challenge is the recycling of parts made from composite material with carbon fibers. That’s why Airbus set up a partnership with a network of research institutes, schools and SMEs to create a recycling process that can separate the fiber from the resin (called the PARCCA project for advanced processes for recycling of carbon composites).
Trioplast is specializes in agricultural plastic, for example used to wrap hay bales. The plastic industry needs to change in order to diminish negative externalities, such as marine litter. Trioplast is making a transition to the circular economy by focusing on recycling and re-use. They have 11 sites in Europe with 4 production lines: plastic stretch film, industrial film, hygiene film and plastic bags. Trioplast was already founded in 1968; since 2012 they increased efforts for plastic recycling. Specifically, they installed two new recycling facilities to transform polyethylene film into granules. This reduces the industrial site’s energy consumption by 25%. In addition, Trioplast adopted another circular economy aspect: product-as-a-service. The company sells the use of its products, rather than the ownership. That means that after use, the customer gives the plastic back to the company so it can be properly re-used or recycled.
Veolia is a waste management company, working on collection, recycling, valorization and treatment of waste. The regional headquarters for the central western part of France is located in Nantes and has a total of 140 sites in Pays de la Loire, Brittany and Centre-Val-de-Loire. In a circular economy, waste is used as a resource, instead of being discarded. Therefore, accurate waste management is crucial for the circular transition. In the west of France, Veolia works with a wide range of stakeholders (companies, local government, EPR organisations) to make sure waste streams are optimally adapted to the supply of waste. A nice example of collaboration is the recycling factory for electrical and electronic equipment that was set up by Veolia, the Metropolis of Angers Loire and Thomson Angers. Each stakeholder brought their expertise to the project. Thomson Angers facilitated the re-training of the factory’s personnel (who used to manufacture televisions), the Metropolis of Angers Loire to ensure local economic attractiveness, and Veolia invested in the industrial equipment to recycle the waste into secondary raw materials. The result? The factory transforms over 90% of electrical and electronic waste into new raw materials for industry!
Famous for its spirits, Remy Cointreau employs 180 people in Saint-Barthélémy-d’Anjou in the Pays de la Loire region. They produce the orange based liquor since 1989. The company has taken several steps for circularity! First of all, the Cointreau bottles are being re-designed in order to be more sustainable, i.e. lighter, in order to reduce the CO2 emission of transport. And what about waste? The company now recycles its primary production material: oranges. Out of 12000 tonnes of waste, half consists of orange peels. These are collected by a local company to be composted. In total, 100% of Remy Cointreau’s waste is valorized: 96% is composed or recycled and 4% is turned into energy.
Run Eco Team
In 2016, Nicolas Lemonnier started picking up trash on this runs in Nantes. His running buddies got inspired and the run team grew. The concept is easy to understand, pick up trash during a run! Fast forward to now and Run Eco Team has more than 1500 members who clean up their neighborhoods around the world. As its popularity grows, Run Eco Team organizes races all over the world. A great example of how circular economy is something everyone can contribute to.
The startup scene
Circular businesses are often startups, entering the market with innovative solutions to push for circularity. Pays de la Loire has a strong startup scene and there are many sustainable startups to showcase! Let’s look at some great new business ideas for the circular economy:
- LivingPackets: proposes a zero-waste option for e-commerce delivery called The Box: a connected, free-floating and reusable packaging box to deliver online orders to customers. This innovation eliminates 100 billion cartons every year, equal to saving 700 million trees.
- BinHAPPY: teaches kitchen staff in restaurants how to sort the food waste, after which the startup collects the waste and brings it to a farmer for mechanization to create bio-energy!
- Easilys: also focuses on the waste from restaurants. This startup fights against unnecessary food waste with digitally connected trash cans to automatically measure food waste and propose concrete actions to reduce waste.
- * While beyond the circular economy scope, renewable energy is a major cornerstone of a more sustainable future. In Nantes, the startup Lhyfe is building its first industrial production plant for green hydrogen, made with offshore wind energy. Read more about it in a recent blog we wrote, here.
In conclusion, Pays de la Loire is also looking to transition into the circular economy. This presents 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.