Lessons From The French Circular Economy

Lessons From The French Circular Economy

With the introduction of ambitious and innovative anti-waste laws, France has set the global stage for the transition from a linear to a circular economy. From decreasing greenhouse gas emissions to recirculating sporting equipment, the circular economy model in practice provides endless possibilities for a sustainable Australian future.

Linear Economies vs Circular Economies

In the current global climate, most business models are dominated by a linear economic outlook. This approach describes the way in which natural resources are used in a linear, ‘take-make-use-throw away’ process. From larger purchases like washing machines and laptops to everyday items such as toothbrushes and tennis balls, the majority of goods available to consumers are manufactured to optimise competitive pricing and high volumes. In a linear economy, quantity is often valued over quality, resulting in excessive waste, a normalised throw-away culture and pressure on finite resources. 

However, the consequences of a linear economy are not unrealised. As the concerning reality of global warming and rising emissions are felt around the world, alternative solutions are making their way into the spheres of communities, businesses and policy-makers alike. And that’s where the circular economic model comes in. 

Put simply, the purpose of a circular economy is to minimise waste and maximise the recirculation of materials that would usually be sent to landfills. This is achieved through long-lasting product design, accessible product reparability and efficient sorting systems. While you may have heard the catchphrases “upcycling” and “closed-loop” lately, a great way to visualise a circular economy is to imagine an actual circle next to a straight horizontal line. Rather than a linear product life consisting of raw material extraction to product manufacturing, to consumer use to inevitable landfill disposal, a circular economy limits the need for both natural resource extraction and landfill dumping of broken, unfixable products. Essentially, trash is turned into treasure in this cyclical model as used goods are recirculated and kept out of greenhouse-gas emitting landfills.

circular economy

Asset from ResearchGate

Evidently, circular economies provide sustainable solutions to issues such as rapidly growing landfill deposits, environmental degradation and rising emissions contributing to climate change. However, despite extensive research, decades of normalised linear practices have proven a barrier to a swift transition into a circular economy, particularly to those with short-term profits in mind. Nevertheless, a handful of nations have exhibited innovation, urgency and leadership in moving towards a safer and cleaner future. So, what exactly does closing the loop for a nation look like?

France’s Anti-Waste Law for a Circular Economy

In February 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron signed the Anti-Waste Law for a Circular Economy following a parliamentary majority vote. This law is currently leading the French economy towards a circular model, aiming to reduce the nation’s dependence on non-renewable materials as well as their levels of greenhouse gas emissions. 

“A time when producing to destroy is no longer acceptable,” says Brune Poirson, France’s Secretary of State attached to the Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition.

A multifaceted and ambitious roll-out has introduced several world-first measures to move France away from wasteful, inefficient practices rooted in linear economics. These measures include phasing out disposable plastics, improving manufacturer transparency for consumers, banning excessive waste disposal, bettering sorting systems for product reuse, and improving product design and reparability standards.

2022 & Beyond for France’s Circular Economy

With a wide variety of measures required to move into an efficient circular economy, the Anti-Waste Law for a Circular Economy has implemented a progressive commitment timeline. The transition into France’s sustainable future aims to be eventual and just, to make sure employees and businesses don’t get left behind. 

Photo by Antione Giret

France's Plastic Timeline

When the legislation was implemented in 2020, France got straight into business and banned single-use plastic cups, plates, plastic confetti and cotton buds. 

This year, France banned single-use, non-reusable takeaway food packaging such as plastic straws, disposable cutlery, stirrers and polystyrene boxes. The French government also prohibited businesses from dispersing plastic bottles and banned all claims to market plastic packaging products as ‘biodegradable’. The French legislation now also allows consumers to BYO refillable containers into all retail stores.

As of the 1st of January 2022, the nation has committed to banning plastic packaging in produce, plastic tea bags and plastic toys offered with takeaway meals. French public institutions will also be obligated to provide water drinking fountains to encourage reusable water bottles over plastic ones.

2023 and beyond will bring the ban of disposable food packaging for dine-in customers, as well as a developed plastic bottle recycling system with transparency of data and development. France’s long-term goal is to end the marketing of all single-use plastic packaging by 2040.

Food waste

Photo: Benjamin Brunne

France's Food Waste Timeline

In France each year, between 10 000 and 20 000 tonnes of textile products through fast fashion, and roughly 630 million worth of all unused products, are sent to landfill each year. With tighter bans and more expensive fines, the French government is prohibiting the dumping of new products and will require businesses to donate or sell them. This rigorous ban is set to be implemented on the 31st of December 2021 and fulfilled by the end of 2023.

France’s Product Quality and Reparability Timeline

As of 1st of January 2021, France implemented a repairability scale for electronic products so consumers know how ‘fixable’ their product is upon purchase. The goal of this measure is to ensure electronics and appliances such as washing machines, televisions, smartphones and the likes are easier to repair. As such, consumers will fix them rather than add them to landfills, as is what happens with roughly 60% of France’s broken appliances currently. 

As of the 1st of January 2022, the responsibility of providing spare parts that aren’t available on the market will be placed upon manufacturers, with 3D printing as the elected means of creation. State governments will also impose regulations for manufacturers requiring substantial improvements to eco-design and repairability until 2023.

A Circular Economy for Australia: The Winning Shot?

With such ambitious examples of sustainable, circular economic policies around the world, there is so much opportunity for communities, businesses and nations to shape our future, right here and right now. Introducing anti-waste laws in Australia will bring communities together whilst closing wasteful resource flows and protecting our planet. A circular economy for Australia will provide better design processes, quality production and consumer transparency, just as we have seen in France’s forward-thinking changes over just two years. 

As a leading tennis ball recycling initiative, Game On Recycling cannot wait to see what the future holds for circular economic policy as we continue to adapt and innovate new sustainable solutions for your favourite sporting gear daily. With cutting-edge possibilities for the future of manufacturing and reusing in all sectors, Game On Recycling is proud to be one of the leading initiatives of many to come in Australia’s circular economic future. And, just as Australia has adapted tennis from the 11th-century French sport jeu de paume, we hope to see adaptations of France’s forward-thinking legislation on the horizon.