Waste management policy has endeavored since the 1970s to distance itself from a logic of elimination in order to move towards a generalized recovery integrating energy challenges under the pressure of exogenous factors such as energy independence and emissions of greenhouse gases.
The evolution of incentive instruments like negotiation of energy purchase prices, subjugation of greenhouse gas emissions to the national quota allocation plan, aid for equipment will probably prove decisive in the configuration of the waste management systems as we know them today, particularly in terms of integration of the energy production function.
European regulations are also subject to change with regard to the definition of waste status and the designation of disposal and recovery operations. Local waste management systems and the technical configuration of equipment, which must meet a recovery imperative, must also be based on proximity.
Proximity as a principle of territorial integration
Since 1992 the organization of waste treatment must respond to a principle of proximity, with the aim of limiting transport and thus reducing environmental impacts, but also with a view to strengthening territorial anchoring, since it involves eliminating waste as close as possible to its place of production. The inclusion of the principle of proximity is envisaged as a response to conflict situations, considered as manifestations of refusal of the nuisances generated by other people’s waste.
In doing so, it is a matter of making the production territory coincide with the elimination territory, and of promoting the empowerment of citizens with regard to their waste. This principle, which is supposed to be applied through the division of the local territory into collection and treatment sectors within the framework of the plans, has however neither normative nor legal value.
The territorial organization of waste management, greatly hampered by the difficulties of installing the planned equipment, remains dominated by the distribution of existing equipment and the priorities of their managers. Faced with the weakness of planning tools and the principle of proximity, the search for an optimal and accepted territory for waste management remains an object of concern for institutional and political actors. The local perimeter being considered too rigid, we prefer more flexible formulas such as activity basins, communities of destiny or even intermediate territories.
New territorialized management tools responding to a territorial and transversal understanding of waste management are emerging. The local waste contract, partnership system for global waste management has been proposed since 1999 to voluntary authorities in a contractual and concerted form.
The approach put forward stems from a stated desire for integration insofar as it aims to take the most complete account of the entire waste management chain, from prevention to the organization of collection and processing services. It is a question of combining an intrasectoral integration by decompartmentalizing the reflection of the different sectors, with an intersectoral integration going towards a correlation between the waste policy and the other thematic constitutive of regional planning: development employment, local solutions, housing, transport, with the aim of including the waste issue in planning and sustainable development policies.
The new tools for waste management, which moreover meet the expectations of state planning, are in line with sustainable development requirements which consider the local level as the most relevant for a transversal approach to the problems.