Our economic system produces more and more waste, which we must obligatorily reduce and recycle in sectors of the circular economy, in particular solidarity recycling, local jobs and social connections. Local communities understand this and support this shift. But under the Macron presidency, they have remained very lonely.
For more than 100 years, we have been finding landfill and incineration as a way to manage the growing amount of waste we produce as we consume. Today, the garbage cans are overflowing: each Frenchman produces an average of 4 tons of waste per year, which is equivalent to the weight of four cars!
However, we know that we can no longer afford to waste our planet’s resources. To bury and burn waste means to destroy substances and materials that have been formed for thousands of years, as well as to deprive ourselves of resources or objects that we now know how to reuse, reuse or repair them.
In a circular economy, our waste is becoming the new raw material needed as natural resources become increasingly scarce.
Reuse at the heart of the circular economy
In the portfolio of solutions offered by the circular economy, reuse has the smallest environmental footprint and therefore plays an important role in extending the life of hundreds of thousands of objects. It can be our clothes, electronic equipment, computer equipment, toys and much more, which do not end up in the trash and are not destroyed, but are updated and find new users.
Offering an alternative to single-use items, reuse actors are at the heart of the ecological transition of the territories we need. A sign that times are changing, we are seeing the rise of reuse and refurbishment programs at many major brands, and the younger generation are increasingly questioning the overconsumption model that saturates the society they live in.
The value of solidarity reuse
These reuse activities are of particular importance as they are also a vector of local solidarity. Then we talk about the reuse of solidarity. In Paris, this is embodied in particular in places run by volunteers, open to neighbors and rich in social and intergenerational diversity, such as recycling centers and resource centres.
Here, waste is a resource and raw material for a new kind of craftsmanship. We go there to discuss, to donate things we no longer need, to hunt for bargains, to equip at a low price, to learn repair methods and much more … We leave there having destroyed the basic principles of the overwhelming culture of overconsumption.
The economic balance of solidarity re-employment is all the more compelling as it generates many local jobs.
A simple figure illustrates this beautifully: today, handling 10,000 tons of waste will only create 1 job if it is landfilled, 3 jobs if it is incinerated, 31 jobs if it is recycled, versus 550 jobs in the area if it is will be re-employed. Thus, the difference is striking, especially since these created professions, which are not in the disposable economy, are suitable for people far from employment in reintegration.
These activities, carried out by associations and companies of the social and solidarity economy, represent a real wealth for the territories in which they are located. That is why in Paris we are pursuing an active policy to give a second life to solidarity re-employment by supporting its development.
Allow the opening of resource centers and recycling centers in each county, support solidarity and circular economy companies that have invested in this sector, encourage the creation of places of mass use in order to be able to restore, repair and reuse more and more facilities, develop training and skills in recycling professions use and repair… Everything is being done to bring about a real change in the scale of solidarity reuse in Paris. It is about creating and relocating artisanal and social activities in a circular economy, as well as small manufacturing plants from collected and reclaimed materials and spare parts.
Depleted local communities
But rescaling this local circular economy faces a major challenge. We will not develop local reuse channels without providing local authorities with real funds to support the structures that support them.
Cities and regions are strongly committed to supporting networks of recycling centers, as well as the emergence of reuse projects in the social and solidarity economy. But their budgetary wiggle room is lacking due to the vast movement of fiscal and fiscal centralization of the state that is taking place under Macron’s presidency.
Symbolic of this recentralization policy is the phasing out of the housing tax, a tax calibrated and collected by cities, while reducing overall operating subsidies paid by the state to communities. Consequence: local finances are strangled.
One would imagine that many other tax reforms would increase the purchasing power of the middle and working classes while allowing for an ecological shift in the economy. But weakening local communities when we need to increase decentralization to move the economy during an environmental crisis is historical and political nonsense!
In this context, the law of February 10, 2020 on combating waste and the circular economy is not progress. True, it provides for the financing of solidarity reuse at the expense of a part of the eco-fees paid by manufacturers and distributors offering new products for sale. But what will be the specific implementation of this device? Will it be local?
In view of the strong discrepancy observed under the Macron presidency between declarations of intent and concrete measures in favor of the environment, we once again have the right to be very worried about the future.
Florentine Letissier is the Deputy Mayor of Paris, responsible for the social and solidarity economy, the circular economy and contributing to the zero waste trajectory.