Waste Management in France


The French government defines waste as:

“Any substance or object that the holder discards or that he intends or has the obligation to discard”.

In this context, waste management is governed by laws to avoid risks to the environment and public health due to improper disposal methods. The classification of different types of waste in France revolves around the precautions necessary to ensure good waste management practices that respect the environment during the collection, transport, recovery and disposal of various waste products.

Some waste has the potential for recovery (such as recyclable metals) and therefore, an economic value; it can be bought and sold. Regulations and case law dictate what waste can be reclassified.

Waste classification

Waste can be classified according to different criteria: the producer of waste, the properties of waste, the sector where the waste is produced. This classification makes it possible to distinguish which rules apply to which type of waste by those responsible for its management, and to modify these rules according to the capacities of the producer and the risks associated with handling the waste.

Classification according to the waste producer

In this context, waste can be divided into two classes:

Household waste: the initial producer of which is a household; and

Waste from economic activities: the initial producer of which is not a household.

Household waste is the responsibility of local authorities within the framework of France’s public waste management service.

The management of waste from economic activities is the responsibility of the initial producer of this waste, who can, for example, enter into a contract with a private service provider for the removal and management of waste in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Classification according to the properties of the waste

Here, waste can be divided into three categories:

  1. Hazardous waste: this is waste that has one or more of the 15 dangerous properties defined at the European level as waste that is flammable, toxic and dangerous for the environment. Hazardous waste is subject to specific management rules due to the particular risks to the environment and health associated with their handling.
  2. Non-hazardous waste: waste that does not exhibit any of the 15 hazardous properties defined at by European authorities. The management rules are more flexible than for hazardous waste. Examples of non-hazardous waste include glass or plastic, wood and paper.
  3. Inert non-hazardous waste: among non-hazardous wastes, this is waste which does not undergo any significant physical, chemical or biological modification; does not decompose or burn; does not produce any physical or chemical reaction; is not biodegradable; and does not deteriorate the materials with which it comes into contact in a manner likely to result in damage to the environment or to human health. Most of this is waste from the construction and public works sectors (waste concrete, bricks, tiles, etc.).

 Classification according to production sector

The “waste nomenclature” is a regulatory codification established at European level which identifies each type of waste by a six-digit code referring to the waste production sector. Hazardous waste is marked with a star after the code.

The waste nomenclature is the benchmark in terms of waste classification. The waste code resulting from this nomenclature is necessary in all official documents for the management of this waste.

Waste management is something very standardized in France and in Europe (and that’s good).