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Waste and hazardous substances
How is ‘waste’ defined in your jurisdiction?
Under Article L.541-1-1 of the Environmental Code, which implements the Waste Directive (2008/98/EC), ‘waste’ means “any substance or object, or more generally any movable good, which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard”.
What rules and procedures govern the handling of waste, with particular respect to:
Long-term storage (as opposed to short-term storage for transit and sorting purposes) is authorised only for ‘final waste’ (déchets ultimes) that can no longer be recycled or treated under the present technical and economic conditions. Long-term storage is thus considered a form of disposal. Rules depend on the category of waste: hazardous, non-hazardous or ‘inert’.
Waste collectors and transporters of 0.5 tonne of non-hazardous waste or of 0.1 tonne of hazardous waste must declare their activities with the local prefect. Additionally, for hazardous waste, transport is subject to the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road and its national implementation tools. Collectors and transporters of hazardous waste should also fill in the waste manifest that they receive from the waste producer, as well as waste registries.
‘Disposal’ means “any operation which is not recovery even where the operation has as a secondary consequence the reclamation of substances, materials or products or energy”. It is the least favoured operation in the hierarchy of waste management options derived from the Waste Directive, and disposal units, such as incineration and co-incineration, are very strictly regulated.
‘Recycling’ and ‘reuse’ each have specific definitions, as well as preparation for reuse and recovery. The Waste Directive also introduced into French Law the notions of by-products and end-of-waste. Recycling and reuse opportunities should be reinforced as part of the Circular Economy Package, including via amendments to the Waste Directive.
What is the extent of a waste producer’s liability after transferral of waste (eg, to a waste disposal agent)?
Waste liability usually rests with the waste producer or ‘holder’ (although a debate exists as to the criteria to define the latter), which is responsible for the environmentally sound management of its waste until final treatment (including transport, recovery or disposal), regardless of physical and contractual transfers to professional agents (at least from the authorities’ perspective).
However, waste liability now tends to shift to the manufacturer of the good that will ultimately generate or be turned into a waste, under various ‘extended producer responsibility’ regimes. France champions these regimes, which may be regulated at EU level (eg, packaging, waste electrical and electronic equipment, end-of-life vehicles) or at national level (eg, tyres, textile, furniture), or may be set up on a voluntary basis (eg, agricultural supplies, cartridges).
Are waste producers bound by any waste recovery obligations?
Under the Waste Directive, EU member states are expected to increase the preparation for reuse and recycling of at least paper, metal, plastic and glass from households to a minimum of 50% of overall weight, and that of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste to a minimum of 70% of overall weight. Those objectives had been taken into account in French waste regulations. The Circular Economy Package published at EU level in December 2015 anticipates a qualitative and quantitative reinforcement of recovery objectives.
Waste disposal agents
How are the business activities of waste disposal agents/landfill operators regulated?
Waste disposal sites and operators are subject to rules and permitting for facilities classified for environmental protection purposes (ICPE). The permitting regime will mostly depend on the nature, hazardousness and volume of waste and operations. Additionally, some specific categories of waste (eg, oils, polychlorinated biphenyls/polychlorinated terphenyls, tyres) can be handled only by disposal agents with an additional ad hoc licensing.
What special rules, regulations and safeguards apply to the handling and disposal of hazardous materials?
Transport of hazardous waste is subject to the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road and its national implementation tools. Collectors and transporters of hazardous waste should also fill in the waste manifest that they receive from the waste producer, as well as their own waste registry. Hazardous waste treatment operators may also be subject to additional rules if their site also qualifies as a ‘Seveso’ site (given the total volume of hazardous substances potentially present at any one time in the facility) and/or as an IED-site under Directive 2010/75/EU on industrial emissions.
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