Sticks and carrots.

Author:Penhallow, John
Position:NARROW WEB Europe

In the July/August issue of L&NW, Calvin Frost, author of Letters from the Earth, took a hard look at sustainability and recycling. He concluded that to get from here to there America needs markets, technology and education. Much the same applies in Europe. One advantage for us is that most governments, as well as the EU, are looking to provide bigger sticks and carrots to "tilt" the market in favor of better recycling of all kinds of packaging.

Ask any French person, and they will tell you that a) recycling is important to them, and b) France is the recycling champion of Europe. The reality is rather different. According to a report by Plastics Europe, the recycling rate of plastic packaging in France was 26% in 2016 (as compared to an average of 41% in the European Union). This puts France in 29th place among the 30 European countries covered, only just above the minimum level (22.5%) required by the European Packaging Directive (94/62 / EC, in case you want to look it up). Top of the class are Germany (50.1%) and the Czech Republic (51.2%), the only countries to have a plastic packaging recycling rate above 50%.

In an interview with the Journal du dimanche, Frances Secretary of State for Ecological Transition (oh yes, there is) announced the government's intention to set up a system of "bonus-malus" for consumers. No details are yet available but this will presumably be on a similar basis to automobile insurance premiums, rewarding the environmentally aware householder and taxing the all-in-the-same-garbage-bin one. Quite how this will be policed, and by whom, is also not yet clear, but this is at least in line with a campaign promise by President Macron to achieve 100% plastic recycling in France by 2025. Further evidence of Europe's top-down approach lies in the symbols that each manufacturer of packaged consumer goods must display, usually on the label. The most commonly seen in Europe is the Green Arrow. Most consumers believe that this shows a recyclable pack. It doesn't. It just means the manufacturer has paid an "ecology tax."

In France alone there are no less than 10 "recycling" symbols used on labels and packaging; not one citizen in 100 can say what each one means. And even those who can have difficulty in differentiating between PE and PP, to say nothing of the dozen or so other plastics in labels and packaging.

Voluntary environmental organizations are doing their best to educate the public, but it is an uphill struggle. "In...

To continue reading