A French Connection

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

EcoFolio is a French state-accredited nonprofit organisation that is responsible for paper collection and recycling throughout France. How cool is that! This group is encouraging businesses and consumers to recycle more paper by making it easier and more efficient, and working with all parts of the supply chain to make this possible.

The group started in 2006 with the intention of getting French paper recycling rates to 55% by 2016 and 60% by 2018. In France this has been as much about changing behaviours and attitudes as it is about raising volumes. Ecofolio recognises that the two are intimately linked, and that cooperation and collaboration are the cornerstone of its strategy. So far its results look promising.

Links have been established between various governing bodies, including accreditation agencies and local municipalities. This includes the French ministries of Ecology and Economy as well as regulatory bodies. Ecofolio itself has an executive board with governance shared by various paper producers, ranging from copying and graphics papers through to newsprint. Between 2006 and 2012 Ecofolio has allocated €230 million to 1,094 local authorities representing 98% of French people. It has received an annual “eco-contribution” which sounds a bit like a tax, from 11,678 “paper-generating entities” and involved 67% of the paper industry’s companies in the Ecofolio work.

This group is working at grass roots to improve paper sorting, collection and recycling systems. They provide advice and ideas to help homes, businesses and local authorities with the operational aspects of recycling. They also conduct educational seminars and awareness-building campaigns to help French citizens better to understand more about how to develop a circular economy that reconciles ecology and economic growth. And they want to improve the national record.

Ecofolio found that paper collection costs varied by over 500% across various towns and systems, and that municipalities spent some €9.1 billion on waste management in 2010. As a result Ecofolio’s efforts, the French are now recycling more paper and are generally more aware of the process and the importance of paper waste management and recycling.

What is more interesting is that this is a cooperation between government and an NGO, and that the Ecofolio work is relevant for the European Union in general, not just France. According to a McKinsey study published in 2012 cost savings of between €380 billion and €630 billion would accrue to EU manufacturing, if circular economy practises such as Ecofolio advocates were adopted. That’s an awful lot of money available for some relatively straightforward actions. The trick is to get ecological initiatives to work at local level, and to make sure that all links in the supply chain are up to speed and motivated. Time to talk to Ecofolio perhaps?

– Laurel Brunner

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