Henry Samuel, The Telegraph, September 26, 2019
France’s senate has approved legislation banning the destruction of unsold non-food items, including cosmetics and luxury items, in a “world first”, according to the government.
The new rules will help prevent almost a billion euros worth of unsold non-food items being thrown away or destroyed every year in France, said ecological transition minister Brune Poirson, who estimated that the weight of “up to two Eiffel Towers” in clothes and shoes alone were binned annually.
France has already enacted a law banning supermarkets from destroying unsold food, and obliging supermarkets to hand it to charity, which has led to a 30 per cent rise in charity food donations.
But the new legislation extends the ban to cosmetics, clothing, shoes, textiles, electronics or plastics, and other products.
As part of a wider “anti-waste and circular economy” bill, the majority Right-wing senate will oblige producers, importers or distributors - including online ones - to either re-use or donate unsold non-food items, except those that pose a health or security risk.
Footage of containers of unsold or returned products at an Amazon warehouse being sent for destruction under agreements with third-party retailers on French TV channel M6 sparked outrage this year, as did the sports clothing and equipment chain Go Sport after dozens of pairs of shoes were found lacerated in a bin outside a Paris outlet.
The fashion industry, in which France is a world leader, is notoriously wasteful with 100 million tons produced per year worldwide, as brands seek to retain label exclusivity. Only one per cent are recycled.
“We appreciate their desire not to give away unsold items but they’re going to have to find other solutions, such as selling at knock-down prices to staff, taking the labels off, reusing the materials in-house or in recycling chains,” the ecological transition ministry told La Croix.
The government has promised unspecified “concessions” for luxury players, designed to help protect intellectual property.
“However it will no longer be possible to bleach an item of clothing to render it unusable before destroying it,” said the ministry.
The bill, which will be enacted between 2021 and 2023, also includes the creation of a “repairability index” for products.
France’s upper house of parliament also bolstered draft legislation by introducing a fine of €3,000 (£2,700) for a physical person and €15,000 for a legal entity for failure to comply.
Supermarkets and other stores that throw away unsold foodstuffs that are still edible risk €10,000 fines, up from an earlier figure of €3,750.
Market vendors will also have to offer unsold food they would previously had thrown away to charities if they are still fit for consumption.
The senate also adopted an amendment granting consumers the right to “be served in a container brought by him or herself as long as it is visibly clean and suited to the nature of the product bought”.
The consumer is responsible for the cleanliness of the receptacle so as to remove the risk of the vendor facing accusations of contaminating clients.
Vendors can refuse such receptacles if they are “manifestly dirty or unsuitable”.
The bill must return to the National Assembly for a final reading.