Recovery & Recycling

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The waste treatment hierarchy

According to ADEME, recycling "aims to use the raw materials deriving from waste".

The definition of the French Environment Codeis more precise, characterizing recycling as "anyrecovery operation by which waste materials, including organic waste, are processed to make substances, materials or products for their original purpose or for other purposes. Waste recovery operations to produce energy, those relating to the conversion of waste into fuel, and backfilling operations cannot be classified as recycling operations. "

The hierarchy of treating end-of-life products promoted by the 2008 "waste" framework directive favours recycling materials for energy recovery (see the page on efficiency). The circular economy is consistent with this assumption since the creation of value is usually higher in the case of material recovery. Material recycling is therefore preferable when technical and health conditions permit. The circular economy even aims toupcycle, or increase the value of materials during processing (see the Art waste and Bilum) Arts waste 

Material recycling and energy recovery canalso be very complementary. For example, an anaerobic digestion process produces a digestate (a solid co-product), recovered as a fertilizer and biogas to replace fossil fuels.

Sorting: an essential lever for the development of recycling systems

Source separation, whether for industrial or household waste, is a key lever for the development of recycling. When mixed in skips, waste is costly for society and companies. Conversely, waste sorted and held ready for recycling can be a source of profit. Selective collection facilitates the massification of certain types of waste, making it possible to generate economically viable recycling sectors. The development of extended producer responsibility, for example, has helped to set up recycling chains in the area of electrical and electronic equipment and plastic packaging. (See the Veolia D3E and Infineo initiatives)

The French national waste reduction and recovery plan aims to move towards material recovery "55% by weight of non-inert, non-hazardous waste in 2020". This objective is targeted in communities that need to set up selective sorting channels, including bio-waste. (See the guide for local authorities: "La collecte séparée des biodéchets, une solution d'avenir" The separate collection of biowaste: a solution for the future).

Like Synhorcat in Paris (hotel and restaurant professionals), some responsible professionals are changing the way they work over and above what is required by existing regulations for their waste to be recovered. These exemplary initiatives should be encouraged. (See the Moulinot initiative) 

High dependence on the price of raw materials

In economic terms, a recycling industry can be viable only if the recycled materials are competitive when compared  to virgin materials. The short-term drop in the price of raw materials is unfavourable to the sector. Economic tools providing incentives for using recycled materials and taking into account the negative externalities related to extracting virgin materials should allow market losses related to fluctuations in commodity prices to be offset.

The development of recycling is particularly important in countries poorly endowed with natural resources. Innovative business models in the field should be encouraged and replicated.  (See the DislaubMorphosis and Api'Up initiatives)

The challenges of the building industry in France

The building industry is the biggest consumer of raw materials in France. By 2020, European legislation requires us to recover at least 70 % of "non-hazardous waste from construction and demolition, excluding naturally occurring materials".

This is a major challenge. Many experiments dedicated to the recovery of building materials already exist locally. These practices must be promoted and multiplied throughout France (see the CyclabatCemexSiniat, Yprema initiatives (here and here) and theReValo initiative)