The new French anti-waste law: how are member states driving the EU sustainable agenda?


Ahead of the publication of the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan on Wednesday 11 March, certain Member States have already begun updating their strategy and legal framework. The clearest example is France, where legislators have adopted the new anti-waste law, with the ambition to influence the discussion at EU level.

The ambition of this law is to fundamentally change methods of production and consumer behavior to create a new sustainable economic model, and many have commented on the possibly far-reaching consequences of the new text for French businesses and the French economy.

The new legislation includes new provisions on various issues that are directly relevant for the e-commerce sector. Among these, the anti-waste law mandates businesses to communicate to the consumers the equivalent of their internet and mobile consumption in greenhouse gas. It also extends the legal guarantee of conformity, since the new law provides for a 6 months’ extension of the legal guarantee of conformity if the appliance is subject to repair under the legal guarantee of conformity. Consumer will now have 24 months’ guarantee plus 6 additional months.

The new law also includes provisions meant to fight planned obsolescence and facilitate repair. It mandates the use of a repairability index that will allow the consumer to know whether his product is repairable, difficult to repair, or non-repairable through a simple visual tool, but also imposes new obligation of information for electronics vendors on the period over which the software updates enable  “normal” use of the device. To promote repair and the use of spare parts, the law reinforces obligations in terms of information on availability of spare parts.

In addition, the law proposes new measures such as prohibiting the destruction of non-food unsold products to encourage donation and recycling.

Finally, the French anti-waste law creates an obligation for vendors to take back  used products when selling a new one free of charge, either at the delivery address (however, reversed logistics is costly and not environmentally efficient) or at a local collection point (however, such alternatives don’t necessarily exist yet). The bill indeed introduces the extended producer responsibility for 23 categories of products (so far, such taking back obligation was only mandatory for waste electrical and electronic equipment and voluntary for home furniture), and creates obligations for marketplaces to demonstrate that their merchants are enrolled with an eco-organisation and therefore compliant. Failing that, they will be held responsible on behalf of their vendors, for paying the eco-contribution on products and collecting used products.

This law is likely to influence the follow up of the European Circular Economy Action Plan, and the discussions in the European Parliament.

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