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Waste and hazardous substances

Definition

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, recently amended by EU Directive 2018/851/EU), ‘waste’ means “any substance or object, or more generally any movable good, which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard”.

Waste handling

What rules and procedures govern the handling of waste, with particular respect to:

(a) Storage?

Long-term storage (as opposed to short-term storage for transit and sorting purposes) is, as a general principle, authorised only for ‘final waste’ 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.

(b) Transport?

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. In addition, 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. Trading and brokerage activities require a specific declaration.

(c) Disposal?

‘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.

(d) Recycling/reuse?

‘Recycling’, ‘reuse’, 'recovery' and 'preparing for reuse' have specific definitions under the Waste Directive. In addition, the French Environmental Code has developed the notions of re-utilisation and preparing for re-utilisation. The directive also introduced 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 EU Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) through the new EU Waste Framework Directive (2018/851/EU), which is due to be transposed into law by 5 July 2020. The Ministry of Ecology also issued a Circular Economy Roadmap in April 2018, which set out 50 regulatory, economic and operational actions concerning waste management.

Liability

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 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).

Waste recovery

Are waste producers bound by any waste recovery obligations?

Under the Waste Framework Directive, EU member states are expected to increase the preparation for reuse and recycling of paper, metal, plastic and glass from households to a minimum of 50% of overall weight by 2020, and that of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste to a minimum of 70% of overall weight. These objectives have been taken into account in French waste regulations and have been reinforced by the Circular Economy Roadmap issued by the Ministry of Ecology in April 2018. The EU Waste Framework Directive was also amended in May 2018 (and will need to be transposed into law before 5 July 2020) to include staged objectives to increase preparation for the reuse and recycling of municipal waste.

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), with specific additional requirements depending mostly on the nature, hazardousness and volume of waste and operations. In addition, some specific categories of waste (eg, oils, polychlorinated biphenyls/polychlorinated terphenyls, tyres) can be handled only by disposal agents with ad hoc licensing.

Hazardous substances

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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