Waste sorting: the tertiary sector facing its obligations

Since July 2021, the Environmental Code provides that companies are subject to the obligation to separate non-hazardous waste at source, into seven streams. The goal is to better recover them through specific recycling channels. Do tertiary companies have the wherewithal to actually apply this classification? And what about Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes? Which players can they trust and which solutions do they offer?

When we talk about the problem of waste produced by companies, it is the waste linked to industrial production that first comes to mind. Probably because in the collective imagination they are the most dangerous or the most polluting. According to an Ademe publication dated 2020, waste produced by industrial and craft companies represented 35% (25.4 million tonnes in 2018) of waste from economic activity excluding construction in France. This is forgetting that tertiary companies also produce large amounts of waste: 19.5 million tons in 2018, according to Ademe.

And these same service providers are subject, since 2016, to the obligation, imposed by the environmental code, to sort their waste at source (when they produce more than 1,100 liters of waste per week; paper sorting in offices is mandatory in companies with more than 20 employees). Initially, there were five flows: paper/cardboard, metal, plastic, glass and wood. Since July 2021, two other streams have been added: mineral fraction residue and gypsum residue. And two other streams will have to be taken into account in the near future: bio-waste from the end of 2023 and textiles in 2025.

According to Ademe’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regional directorate, few tertiary companies would comply with these new legal obligations. “In the service sector, it is not uncommon for several companies to occupy the same building with a single service provider who is there to empty the trash. And much of the collection goes directly to household waste..” The rare tertiary companies that contact the Agency do so for advice on very specific issues: “We are especially asked about the stories of plastic cans and bottles: how can we reduce this waste? The answer may seem simple, but many people don’t think about it: install a drinking fountain.”

It depends on the wishes of the companies”, testify to Karine and Marc Lambert, sister and brother, who co-manage a small business cleaning services company (AMS Pro, based in Saint-Egrève). Created in 2015, it brings together six employees with the occasional support of four self-entrepreneurs. “Some don’t pay attention: in their garbage cans we find paper, plastic, cups, coffee… it’s quite a mix. And once it’s in the trash cans, it’s not fun to sort it out. In the vast majority of contracts concluded with its customers, no provision refers to the fulfillment of selective sorting. “There are no specific instructions and it is not defined in the specs.”

However, some of their customers are making more specific efforts: “We have, for example, a medical company that used to use only one trash can and some time ago installed two more in its offices. According to Ademe, failure to comply with these sorting obligations can be sanctioned with a fine of up to 150 thousand euros. But who controls? It’s not the Dreal, responds Florent Peytre who remembers that “we are an Environmental Code police restricted to classified facilities.”

The State’s policy is to put pressure on the sorting, landfill and incineration centers so that this pressure can reach the waste producers: “We ask points of sale to verify that the sorting has been done correctly. This goes as far as the possibility of them turning down trash cans. Nor is it an exaggeration because, explains F. Peytre, the risk would be to encourage the illegal dumping of these rejected waste, but also to “contribute, in spite of ourselves, to the creation of illegal networks. We did not measure the extent in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes due to lack of time and because of the resources allocated. Citizens, elected officials and associations can help us identify these practices.”

“We don’t do it under pressure”

Just like French society, increasingly aware of the challenges of climate change and the need to act to reduce its carbon footprint (according to an OpinionWay survey for Ademe, published in November 2020, the environment is the second concern of French people after employment and 82% of respondents indicated that they already do selective sorting), a good number of companies are adopting virtuous solutions in terms of sorting at source.

This is the case, for example, of the Hardis Group, a digital services company, established in particular in the Grenoble region and Lyon. “We don’t do it under pressure, but for real well-being.witness Anne Darricade, the group’s CSR project manager. In 2018, we started to dematerialize many processes, mainly everything related to costs, to reduce the amount of paper.”

The group, which soon plans to have a waste audit carried out by a specialist company, is developing a zero waste policy. It favors recycling, the purchase of second-hand products, the extension of the duration of use and the depreciation of computer equipment from three to five years until 2025, etc. Since 2019, the Hardis Group has been a partner of the adapted company AfB, specialized in the reconditioning of computer and telephony equipment. ‘We sell our equipment and pay them a service.’

For the sorting part of the five flows in the offices, the Hardis Group works with Elise, a social and solidarity economy company established throughout France and in particular in Fontaine, near Grenoble. Elise is also a partner at Veolia Propreté. “Collecting waste below 50 kg mesh per week is complicated for us“says Jean Foray, director of business services at Veolia Environmental Services in the Alps (south of Isère, Savoie, Haute-Savoie).

Veolia Propreté, like the other large sorting and collection groups, works mainly with large waste producers. In the Grenoble area, Veolia Propreté works with around 300 companies, the largest of which is STMicroelectronics in Crolles. “On site, we have 50 dumps, a waste collection center, compaction means and internal collection. We have a team of four permanently on site for conventional waste. We can do a very fine classification and have interesting volumes, including in cups.”

For the small waste producers that are the majority of tertiary companies, Veolia partners with service providers such as Elise or Urby, a subsidiary of La Poste and the Banque des Territoires. “We favor partnerships with these structures of the social and solidarity economy. They are interested in selling service and billing in small streams that they consolidate in their facility and we guarantee the downstream sector.” Suez works in the same way with another subsidiary of La Poste: Recygo. Created in 2018, this company, based in Boulogne-Billancourt, has the La Poste and Suez networks to offer, throughout the national territory (19,500 locations, including 3,000 in Aura), its sorting and collection of waste (mainly paper ) in offices.

Report produced by Thomas Richardson

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