Eco-Emballages, a private initiative recognised by the French public authorities, will turn 20 in 2012. Thanks to its comprehensive approach, which integrates all the actors in the chain, packaging recycling has already dramatically increased in France – and efforts are ongoing.
Acting at every step of the chain
In 1994, Eco-Emballages started a contract with the Association of France’s Mayors to increase the rate of selective collection and recycling: at the time, 22% of packaging was recycled. This early initiative has provided one of the three main pillars of the organisation’s current work: funding and monitoring selective collection, in close partnership with local authorities. Eco-Emballages thus provides these authorities with “technical, financial and practical assistance. Eco-Emballages’ regional teams bring everyday advice, training and feedback to achieve an appropriate balance between cost and performance”, states its website. Another pillar is to work with companies on making packaging more sustainable, at both ends of the chain: at the start of the chain, the organisation works with producers to help them improve end-of-life for their packaging, thus encouraging them to design packaging that is lighter, easier to recycle and has as little impact as possible on the environment. At the other end of the chain, Eco-Emballages collaborates with the recycling industry and
monitors the quality and price criteria that guarantee a sustainable outlet for the materials collected (glass, paper, plastic, etc.).
Finally, the third pillar is informing consumers themselves and encouraging them to sort their waste, notably through awareness campaigns. Together, these actions at every step of the chain have already brought recycling to the centre stage. In 2001, one year early, Eco-Emballages reached the goals set by the European Union, with 58% of packaging then being recycled. Today, 84% of French people say they sort their waste on a regular basis. 99% of the population has access to a selective collection system, and over 36,000 towns have signed an agreement with Eco-Emballages. In 2011, 3.12 million tons of domestic packaging was recycled, which represents 2.03 million tons of CO2.
Taking the next step with ongoing cooperation
These encouraging results cannot however be allowed to hide the fact that Eco-Emballages still has work ahead of it. In 2011, 67% of domestic packaging was recycled; the aim set by the “Grenelle de l’environnement” (a series of reflective gatherings on environment and sustainability themes that took place in 2007 at the initiative of the French government) is to reach 75%. The organisation’s goals were also recently reaffirmed: to reduce the weight of packaging, develop the recycling of plastic and optimise the selective collection process. In terms of public awareness, there is still a lot of work to do to convince everyone to sort their waste as regularly as possible. To achieve these goals and, maybe, reach 100% of recyclable waste recovered, Eco-Emballages will most likely continue to work hand in hand with industrial companies, local authorities, associations and keep raising public awareness. In industrial processes, the preservation of the environment is about getting all the actors on board and ensuring they all find an interest in contributing. Eco-Emballages already is a success story in that respect.
(photo from http://upload.wikimedia.org/)