France’s Compost Law

As of January 2024, France is mandating organic waste recycling under their new compost law.  
Reading Time: 2 minutes

As of January 2024, France is mandating organic waste recycling under their new compost law.  Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As of January 2024, France is mandating organic waste recycling under their new compost law.  

Composting, the natural process of recycling organic matter like leaves and food scraps into a nutrient-rich fertilizer, has existed for centuries. It dates back to ancient civilizations that utilized organic waste to enrich their agricultural soils.  

Today, composting is still made to create fertilizers in backyard or community gardens or on a larger farming scale. Compost has also become important in helping reduce food waste as it helps divert organic waste from landfills, reduce methane emissions, and alleviate pressure on waste management systems. Cities worldwide have introduced composting programs that pick up organic waste from households and transform it into fertilizer or biogas. 

France’s compost law

Prior to January 2024, France only required households and businesses that generated over five tonnes of organic waste per year to separate their waste. Now, they are mandating all residents to sort their bio-waste, which includes food scraps, vegetable peels, expired food, and garden waste. The collected waste will be turned into biogas or compost to replace chemical fertilizers.  

While France’s compost law currently has no penalties, under the support of the government’s Green Fund, local authorities are required to provide easy means for households to compost or separate their organic waste.  

Some municipalities are choosing to provide households with small countertop bins that can be left outside their home for a dedicated collection service. Other municipalities are opting to install municipal collection points.  

Some cities in France have been experimenting with different ways to collect organic waste. In Paris, around 500 new biowaste bins will be in the streets by the end of 2024, where Parisians can throw away their food scraps. Besançon in eastern France has individual in-house composters, shared bins for condominiums, and composting chalets for entire neighborhoods.  

In the European Union (EU), food waste is responsible for about 16 percent of the total emissions from the food system. The EU’s Sustainable Development Goal states that members will have to take the necessary measures to reduce food waste by the end of 2030. Within this mandate, 30% of this reduction will come from restaurants, food services, and households.  

France’s compost law is the first time composting has been mandated in Europe. Other countries like Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium have taxes or bans on incinerating biowaste, encouraging home composting and separate waste bins.  

France’s compost law isn’t the first time France has put forward efforts to reduce food waste. In 2016, France became the first country in the world to enforce a law that supermarkets couldn’t throw away good quality food that was approaching its best-before date. In 2018, France was the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food and encourage them to donate surplus food to charities and food banks. 

The country hopes to cut its total food waste in half by 2025 with France’s compost law. An estimated 82kg of compostable waste per person is thrown away each year. France’s new compost obligatoire rules might help the country achieve its food waste reduction goals.  

France’s compost law should be successful as long as households and businesses are provided with the proper tools (e.g., compost bins or bags) and people are explained how it works and why it is important. If it is proven successful, France, which is already a leader in food waste reduction efforts, can encourage other countries in Europe and around the world to follow suit.

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