In early December, the French Assembly started to debate on a “revolutionary” bill based on “anti-waste and circular economy”. 

The bill covers many topics, including more information on products for consumers, better quality manufactured products, no-more overproduction, no-more built-in obsolescence and plastic reduction. 

 

The key points of the bill are the following:

  • Ending the destruction of unsold products and encouraging products to be donated instead. 
  • Going forward with the “polluter has to pay” rule and introducing a “bonus” to encourage companies to transition their way of producing to a more sustainable model.
  • Creating a mandatory grade sign indicating a product’s longevity, resistance and repairability.
  • Introducing a rule where companies must recycle your old product when selling you a new one upon point of sale or delivery. 

 

A tangible example of what kind of changes the bill could introduce is the possibility to buy one pill at the pharmacist instead of a full box when you don’t need it. Another is the prohibition of supermarkets to destruct unsold food – which would make France the first country to do so. 

Originally, the draft bill was suggested by Brune Poirson, French Ecology State Secretary, in July 2019. In the Senate, the draft bill was approved almost unanimously (342 votes in favor – 1 against) in late September. Following, members of the Sustainable Development and Territory Arrangement Commission made some core amendments and the new draft bill was approved on the 29th November.

One such amendment made by Mrs. Batho, former French Minister for Ecology, would eventually prohibit Black Friday. The idea is to put an end to Black Friday “sales” that are not real sales, in the way that consumers don’t actually benefit from (high) discounts. In the UK, a study has shown that only five 5% of the discounts on Black Friday are actually discounts. In France, it was proven that an average of only 8% of the products sold that day are actually on sale, and that the discounts vary between 2 and 10%, far from the 50%, 75% or 90% signs. With this amendment, Batho added Black Friday’s sales operations to the “aggressive commercial practice” list, which can be punished by a €300.000 fine or two years jail time.

Another member of the Commission, Mr. Pahun also made two interesting amendments. Firstly, mentions of “biodegradable”, “environment friendly” or similar language should be completely prohibited for companies to use. Mr. Pahun states that such  language is subjective and not controlled and therefore should be prohibited to avoid the possibility of “greenwashing”. This means that companies could no longer make you believe that they are doing something to protect the environment when they are actually not, or not as much as they claim they do. Secondly, Pahun added that “if [an item is] said to be a ‘recycled item’, [the] percentage of recycled material used must be mentioned”. Again, he wants to prevent “greenwashing” and ensure that consumers have access to real information concerning the product they might want to buy. 

This bill is a step in the right direction and complies with the country’s goal to have 100% recycled plastics by 2025 and no more plastic food packaging by 2040.

 

 

Photo by Jasmin Sessler

 

 

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