French law says companies can’t destroy unsold stock
The French Government is set to ban the destruction of unsold non-food goods as part of new legislation on the circular economy, though concerns have been raised that it does not go far enough.
The new measure, announced by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on 4 June, would mean that unsold consumer goods such as clothes, electronics and furniture would have to be sent for recycling or reuse by companies.
The plan is part of the Circular Economy Bill, set to be discussed by the government in July. Other proposals in the bill include an obligation for online marketplaces to ensure that the collection and recycling of the products they market on their sites are properly financed and to implement extended producer responsibility (EPR) regimes for items such as sports and DIY equipment and cigarette filters.
According to Philippe’s office, some €650 million (£576 million) worth of consumer goods are thrown away or destroyed every year in France, a practice Philippe said was tantamount to “a scandal”.
The law anticipates special arrangements for the luxury sector, where items are often destroyed to maintain an element of exclusivity for a brand – last year British fashion brand Burberry admitted to burning unsold clothing and accessories worth £28.6 million every year to avoid them going to market for a cut price – while items that must be used by a certain date will also have special arrangements.
However, despite the waste reduction proposal being described as a “world first” by Philippe, not all groups in France have welcomed the move wholeheartedly. Paris-based NGO Zero Waste France stated that authorising unsold items to be sent for recycling “more or less amounts to destroying them and not reusing them”.
The group states that it would be better for the law to clearly obligate the reuse of these items, a move that would be more in line with the circular economy ethos. This would be more in tune with the law introduced in 2016 that requires supermarkets over 400 square metres in size to sign agreements with one or more organisations to redistribute unused food.
Zero Waste France has also criticised the lack of targets for reducing single-use plastic and the lack of new bans for certain single-use plastic items in the Circular Economy Bill, despite the EU’s Single-Use Plastic Directive, which was voted through by the European Parliament on 27 March, providing for the banning of more single-use plastic items such as plastic cutlery and food containers.