In a contentious move that pits French local authorities against EU regulations, the proposed plastic bottle deposit scheme faces staunch opposition in France.
The European Commission’s packaging waste regulation, introduced in November 2022, aimed to boost recycling targets and establish a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles used for soft drinks and bottled water by January 1, 2029.
However, resistance from French elected representatives has intensified, arguing that the scheme is financially burdensome and allegedly influenced by powerful lobbying groups.
The European Parliament had initially diluted the deposit requirement and introduced a derogation for countries achieving a 90% separate collection rate of plastic bottles from household waste.
Despite this concession, French local authorities rejected the proposal outright, emphasizing the perceived financial motivations behind the initiative.
During the recent Environment Council meeting in Brussels on December 18, EU ministers further lowered the derogation threshold to 78%, a target deemed “reasonably” achievable by French Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Béchu.
France already has legislation mandating a 77% collection rate for plastic bottles by 2025, with a 60.3% rate achieved in 2022, according to ADEME, France’s environment agency.
However, French local authorities remain unconvinced, calling for the entire scheme to be scrapped.
Yoann Jacquet, head of communications at Intercommunalité de France, representing numerous French local authorities, stated, “The reduction in the exemption is a lesser evil, but it does not fully meet our expectations.”
Amid this dispute, Béchu announced during a September conference that the government would not introduce a general deposit return scheme, citing insufficient support.
Elected representatives are now pushing for the abandonment of what they view as a “bogus deposit.”
Environmental groups argue that returnable plastic bottles cannot be reused due to hygiene regulations, leading to direct recycling instead.
On the contrary, the plastics industry contends that the existing collection and recycling system is effective, and a deposit-return scheme could discourage citizens from participating in single-sorting efforts.
From an economic standpoint, the proposed deposit scheme may result in a loss of revenue for local authorities. Citeo, a recycling-focused not-for-profit company, collects fees from beverage companies, partly redistributed to local authorities to cover packaging collection costs.
With the deposit scheme, revenue may shift to supermarkets and marketers, leaving local authorities with the exact costs for collecting other plastic waste.
To address this concern, local elected representatives propose simplifying the sorting process and focusing on waste collection in public spaces outside homes.
However, this suggestion may clash with President Emmanuel Macron’s reported prioritization of the deposit scheme despite potential counterproductivity.
The debate in France underscores the complex intersection of environmental goals, economic considerations, and public sentiment, leaving the fate of the EU plastic bottle deposit scheme uncertain on French soil.
As the nation grapples with finding the balance between sustainability and financial feasibility, the outcome could set a precedent for other EU member states navigating similar challenges.
This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members