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Preliminary details on waste

Context and challenges

Waste is the inevitable price to pay for human activities. Households, industries, retailers, artisans or other economic activities produce waste. In France, the Environmental code (Title IV of book V: codification of the amended law of 1975) establishes the fundamental principles of the waste management policy: waste production prevention, reduction in waste harmfulness, recovery via reuse, recycling or any other operation making it possible to recover materials or energy, transport limitation, provision of information to the public on the effects of waste production and treatment operations on health and the environment, storage exclusively limited to final waste.

Reduce waste at source and recover waste at the end of the product’s lifespan is at the heart of the current waste management policy.

European law stipulates that each Member State should plan its own waste disposal. 2Legislation2 Article L. 541-1 of the Environmental code defines waste as follows: “Waste is any residue generated by a production, processing or usage process, any substance, material, product or, more generally, anything discarded or intended to be discarded”. It also specifies the notion of “final waste”: “final waste is waste, resulting from waste treatment or otherwise, which can no longer be treated under current technical and economic conditions, notably by extracting the recoverable part to reduce its polluting or hazardous nature”.

The legislation distinguishes between two categories of waste

In reference to a European Community ruling, the decree of 18 April 2002 relative to waste classification establishes a unique list of waste, i.e. the nomenclature, which distinguishes two types of waste:

  • Hazardous waste: indicated in the nomenclature appendix of decree of 18 April 2002 by an asterisk. It is deemed to have one or several hazardous properties (flammable, explosive, toxic, carcinogenic etc.) and therefore a potential risk to the environment and human health. It breaks down into:
    • Hazardous industrial waste,
    • Dispersed hazardous waste, produced in very low quantities by artisans, retail stores, tertiary companies or households.
  • Non-hazardous waste: combining household waste and “ordinary industrial waste” (OIW) such as packaging and materials uncontaminated by hazardous substances.

There is also inert waste, whose physical-chemical make-up does not evolve over time. This mostly relates to waste produced by the public works and construction sectors (uncontaminated soil and rubble). Inert waste is not hazardous, with the exception of unimpaired inert waste containing asbestos (asbestos-cement etc.).

Waste is listed in a nomenclature, with a 6-digit code which varies according to the type of waste, the activity sector which is the source of the waste and the generating process. For example, chapter 05 of the nomenclature groups together the waste generated by oil refining, natural gas purification and the pyrolitic treatment of coal. Within this chapter, section 05 07 relates to waste generated by natural gas purification and transport. In this section, code 05 07 01* indicates waste containing mercury (hazardous) and code 05 07 02 waste containing sulphur (non-hazardous).