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Thursday, 25 June 2015 15:50


The 1st Waste Furniture Recycling Congress, 8-10 June 2015.

By Claire Charras, Customer Liaison Officer, FRN

As the French contingent at the FRN, and opportunely visiting my family in Paris at that time, I was designated as a suitable person to accompany Lesley to the 1st Waste Furniture Recycling Congress in Deauville, France at the start of June.
The conference was organised by Valdelia, the French compliance scheme for non-household furniture.

Lesley Wilcox, Furniture Reuse Network

On a personal level, this opportunity was two-fold. Firstly, it gave me the chance to take a crash-course in furniture reuse, recycling and remanufacturing and their variants in the European Union. Secondly, it allowed me to learn about the much wider political, legal and economic impact and implications of waste, recycling and reuse. This sector, while potential highly profitable to commercial actors, is also extremely regulated and demands a high level of knowledge and understanding of waste policies and compliances.

The main focus of this congress, was the progress of Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) for furniture manufacturers in France introduced at the end of 2012. France counts 14 EPRs, from textiles to healthcare waste and now furniture.

Attendance was mainly by Valdelia's shareholders/stakeholders, but Lesley, Michal Len (RREUSE) and I did get our chance to fly the reuse flag and bring up the social implications for low income households and for vulnerable people. Valdelia do work closely with some of our French counterparts like Envie, Secours Populaire and of course the well-known Emmaüs to ensure that reusable non-household furniture is put back into the system. However, only 3% reuse is currently achieved. Valdelia have a six year contract with the French government to run this compliance scheme which has now been running for two years. I would hope, and maybe even expect, this reuse percentage to go up.

 Apart from that, the congress gave me an insight into the very real challenges faced by the recycling industry, namely the wide variety of mix materials used to produce a single chest of draws, or sofa, or a desk which makes recycling incredibly difficult. The technology used by recyclers to try to limit landfill is impressive and while they have huge economic interest at stake, environmentally, their part can't be downplayed.

The head of the French waste policy department for the ministry of the environment and sustainable development, suggested the possibility of having a varying eco-tax (or visible fee) depending on how eco-friendly and easily recyclable the materials used in furniture production were. An interesting concept.

So, is this something that will come to the UK? Is this something that should come to the UK? What is clear, is that is still a huge variability between how different EU countries operate. When speaking to some of the delegates, it was clear that the concept of take-back scheme was somewhat alien. So do we have as much to learn from France as they do from the UK? Perhaps, it is a debate we can have together at next year's conference, once I will have passed my probation and gained more knowledge of the industry.

Read 3078 times Last modified on Thursday, 24 September 2015 15:37

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