Des Abbayes explained that this was done for two reasons; firstly on environmental grounds and secondly, because the amount of tax levied on landfill and incineration increases annually in France.
She added that France has around 1200 small local authorities, and these small authorities do not have money to invest in waste-to power; waste-to-heat or recycling installations.
There are 21 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes in France today. Five are required by European law, WEEE, lubricants, packaging waste, chlorinated substances and old medicines. Seven more have been created under French law including schemes for fabrics, computer consumables and furniture. There are also voluntary agreements on ink cartridges and some agricultural products.
“Today EPR schemes in France represent EUR 1bn savings for local authorities, des Abbayes said. “It is scheduled to increase to EUR 1.5bn in five years, she said.
La méthode française
There are a number of objectives in this law, the main requirement is to reduce the amount of waste furniture sent to landfill and to increase the energy recover rate
“We have to gain 20 points of recycling in three years by 2015, we have to increase energy recovery and decrease landfill. There is no material specific recycling target so the 45% recycling target covers all materials together.
“The law makes producers responsible for organising and financing the end of life of the products that they put on the market. Producers` means French manufacturers, French importers, French retailers for their own-brand products and also retailers selling directly to the final customers in France,” said des Abbayes.
In 2011, France’s 24 largest producers and retailers set up Eco-Mobilier to manage these processes. She described this as a “private company” and added, “we are state-approved and not-for-profit.” She added: France’s “two biggest mattress producers are members of Eco-Mobilier.”
Eco-Mobilier “is financed by a visible recycling fee which is added to the product price in the same way as it is for electronic and electrical equipment, for example,” she said.
Eco-Mobilier started operation on 1 May 2013 and from that date all manufacturers and retailers in France had to register on the website and start adding the recycling fee to the products price and also pay the fee back to Eco-Mobilier.”
“The fee is set annually so the more of France we cover the more waste will be collected and the overall cost will increase,” she added.
“Today 100% of the products on the market pay the recycling fee but only 30% on average of the waste furniture will be collected and recycled. The fee scale is projected to increase to 2020 when we will be fully operational in the French territories.”
Private but government approved
By the end of last year 5000 producers had registered on the Eco-Mobilier website. “We had collected around EUR 80m fees in the first eight months to finance furniture recycling and recovery for 2013 and the coming years.
A total of “66% of fees come from furniture manufacturers, 17% from bedding manufacturers and 17% from seat manufacturers.” Mattresses and seats, which contain the most polyurethane foam makes up about 24% of waste furniture.
“The biggest share for us is wood. “We have 70% in the waste that we have to deal with. Mattresses and seats account for about 35% of the cost” of recycling, said des Abbayes.
Projecting the volumes of waste forward to 2020 Eco-Mobilier estimates that each year it will have to deal with 900kT/year wood,150 kT/year (11%) metal, 60 kT/year(4%)tonnes of polyurethane and 60kT/year of latex.
French consumers can deal with their waste in two ways: in smaller towns and rural locations they can take it to a municipal waste recovery centre. In larger towns and cities, the local authorities operate kerb-side collections.
Eco-Mobilier has identified collection points at local authority collection centres and at participating retailers which operate take-back schemes for mattresses. Some retailers collect used mattresses when they deliver new mattresses to their customers.
Waste is transported from collection points to waste sorting plants. Eco-Mobilier has contracts with around 130 general waste sorting plants.
Waste is sorted into five different streams: wood, metal, plastics, mattresses and padded furniture. Each stream is further processed at specialised treatment plants which either recycle the components or send them to energy recovery.
Aiming for 45%
“It is our job to reach our 45% recycling target in the most economical way,” said des Abbayes.
“We started collecting [furniture waste] in tonnes in October 2013 so this is quite new for us. So far we’ve collected 23 kT. Today, we collect approximately 6000 tonnes/month. This is increasing with the increasing number of Eco-Mobilier containers at local authority collection centres. “So far we have 900 collection points and we need to have 5000 by 2020.”
By the end of March 2014, around 41% of the collected furniture waste had gone into wood recycling, 13% into wood energy recovery, 17% into refuse-derived fuel, and we have a small proportion of latex foam and textiles, 1%, said des Abbayes.
“Polyurethane foam is a very small share of the waste we have to deal with. But recycling it helps Eco-Mobilier reach its 45% recycling target” she said.
In 2013, Eco-Mobilier selected three dismantling units, following a call for tenders: Ecoval -- owned by a French mattress maker and decided to develop a special process to recycle the mattresses it produces.
The second company working with Eco-Mobilier is Recyc-Matelas which operates two plants, said des Abbeys. The firms dismantles mattresses and sends the different streams along different recycling pathways for polyurethane foam, latex foam and metal springs.
“France needs more dismantling plants,” said des Abbayes. ”Eco-Mobilier is going to increase the number of centres to seven and it completed a tendering process in mid-June 2014. The new dismantling units are scheduled to come on stream in 2015”, she said.
Eco-Mobilier estimates that by 2020 we will have 60 kT/year polyurethane foam available for recycling. “Today we mechanically recycle this mostly into isolating materials for buildings, sport floor coverings and into furniture applications.
“Upholstered seats are currently dismantled but it is too difficult to separate the foam from the other components of the seats. This mixture of dismantled materials is recovered as refuse-derived fuels. This is the most economical way we can do it today,” said des Abbayes
“We have to reach the 45% recycling and 80% recovery target by 2020 in the most environmentally-favourable and economic way. But Eco-Mobilier needs to do more research and because the market is not ready; there’s a lot of innovation needed,” said des Abbayes.
Last year we launched a call for projects with the French Environment Agency, to research and develop new ways to dismantle waste and create new products based on secondary raw materials. The results are expected in November 2014.
In addition to the need for new technology, there is also European wariness about using mechanically recycled mattresses in consumer products.
Des Abbeys said the process was developed by the Coval Group. The first step is to “hygeneise” said des Abbeys. The waste mattresses in the process is dismantled and the foam is also heated and the product they produce with it are compliant with EU regulations. “So there are no problems with the products from the recycled mattresses
“Last year they produced, what they call Green Mattresses, from this recycled foam and now they are investigating how to use the process more for cushions and armchairs. The process has been approved by the French Environment Agency,” said des Abbayes.