Principles of waste management
Principle of extended producer responsibility

The French regulatory framework for waste management was put in place by the Law of July 15 1975, which implemented the EU Waste Framework Directive (75/442/EEC) into French law. The law aimed to promote the prevention, recycling and transformation of waste.

In this respect, the Grenelle 1 Act(1) laid down mandatory new guidance on waste management. Under this guidance, which was inspired by the European legal framework, the policy of reducing waste and the principle of processing waste according to priority were strengthened.

Following from Grenelle 1, and still influenced by EU law, the Grenelle 2 Act(2) enshrined provisions that have significantly modified certain aspects of the French waste management regime.

Thus, the legislature has clarified the principles of waste management and strengthened the principle of extended producer responsibility.

Principles of waste management

With respect to waste management policy, the Revised Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)(3) established a priority system. Under the revised directive, in order of priority, preference should be given to:

  • prevention;
  • preparation for re-use;
  • recycling and other forms of recovery (eg, energy recovery); and
  • as a last resort, disposal of non-recoverable waste in an environmentally compatible manner.

The revised directive aimed to prevent, reduce and – where possible – eliminate sources of pollution arising from waste production or waste management. Pollution control is enshrined in the mandatory guidance of French policy with respect to waste management as laid down in Grenelle 1.

Thus, Grenelle 1 made waste prevention and recycling a priority, which is reflected in several objectives set out in the Action Plan for 2009-2012. These include:

  • the reduction of waste going to incineration or landfill by 15% by 2012; and
  • the reduction of household waste produced per person by 7% over the next five years.

In addition, Grenelle 1 developed the objectives set out in the revised directive by aiming, for example, to reduce waste production, increase recycling, improve recovery of organic waste and enhance waste management in the construction industry.

Grenelle 2 also addressed waste management plans. For instance, the construction industry produces approximately 343 tons of waste per year, which in 2004 represented 84% of all waste produced in France. In response to this problem, Article L541-14-1 of the Environmental Code imposed an obligation to establish departmental waste management plans (a 'department' is a French territorial division) regarding waste from building sites. These plans should set out:

  • an inventory of types of waste;
  • the quantities and origins of waste from building sites;
  • a census of existing waste stations regarding transfer, separation, processing and storage of waste; and
  • an objective with respect to the recovery and reduction of stored quantities of waste.

Furthermore, the modified Article L541-14 of the code aims to phase in the priority objective of preventing and recycling household waste to current planning tools. A general objective that limits waste elimination has been incorporated into departmental waste management plans regarding household waste and waste of similar nature. Henceforth, these plans must limit the incineration and landfill of such waste.

Principle of extended producer responsibility

With a view to promoting recycling, a policy of selective collection and recycling led to the creation of so-called 'extended producer responsibility', which is based on the 'polluter pays' principle. Article 8 of the EU Waste Framework Directive further applies the extended producer responsibility principle to all types of waste. With the adoption of Grenelle 2, this principle also applies to new types of waste (eg, household furniture waste and pneumatics).

In addition, Grenelle 2 has strengthened the rules that apply to organic waste. Henceforth, the new Article L541-21-1 of the Environmental Code requires producers or holders of large quantities of biowaste to organise the source separation and biological recovery or – when this is not done by a third party – the selective collection of waste, in order to ensure that recovery is performed in a way that limits greenhouse gas emissions and encourages composting.

Moreover, the tax laws adopted at the time of Grenelle have further served to reduce the production of waste and the development of recycling.


On the basis of Grenelle, some of the 2012 targets should be achieved (eg, reducing the production of household waste and waste of similar nature per person, and increased recycling of companies' non-hazardous waste). However, it seems unlikely that the 15% reduction target for incinerated and landfilled waste will be met. Thus, further efforts are needed in this regard – although it is first necessary to await publication of the outcome of the executive orders regarding Grenelle 2 and waste management.

For further information on this topic please contact Patricia Cuba-Sichler at Savin Martinet Associés by telephone (+33 1 53 43 22 20), fax (+33 1 53 43 22 21) or email ([email protected]).


(1) Law 2009-967 of August 3 2009, the Grenelle Environment Project, JORF 179 of August 5 2009, page 13031.

(2) Law 2010-788 of July 12 2010, the Law of National Commitment to the Environment, JORF 0160 of July 13 2010, page 12905.

(3) Of the European Parliament and of the Council on waste and repealing certain directives, OJ L 312/3 of November 22 2008.