Category Archives: recycling

Collaborative consumption in France

Goat rental at 10 euros/day in the French Alps for natural lawn care from E-loue

One step removed from barter (but getting closer every day), and a hot new trend documented by two new business books in 2010 – “What’s Mine is Yours” and “The Mesh” – the mode for sharing and renting our physical assets is being driven by the economic recession and a wider societal backlash against wasteful and mindless consumption. If you’re ready to jump in, here are some resources for France:

Zilok, the French version. Rent anything from a car to a lawnmower or power drill. A Citroen C1 rents for 40 euros a day.

E-loue Goat rentals for lawn mowing etc. for toys (4 toys for 6 months at a monthly rate of 15.9 euros)

Supermarmite – Buy and sell home-cooked food in your neighbourhood. They call themselves the first social network for sharing home-cooked meals. Car sharing platform.

Louerunetudiant Outsource your business needs to a student: market research, telemarketing, design, animation, translation etc.


Social media network for recycling launches in France

Brand new French recycling network My Recycle Stuff is not just eye candy, it works like social media and allows you to create a profile, user groups and barter online for items. It is still in beta, and free, but looks like it may move to a paid subscription model, which is less cool. Nonetheless, I signed up, trawled the mosaic and saw some nice stuff like a bright red retro radio and a brand new Ipod.

Documentary explodes myth of nuclear energy as clean and green

France: Pierrelatte

France: Pierrelatte

Since the 1970s, France’s commitment to nuclear energy has been axiomatic and based on a societal consensus that it provides energy independence as well as a source of energy which is both clean and green. The green component of the argument rests on the assertion – taught to all engineering students as gospel – that 97 % of spent nuclear fuel in France is recycled and transformed into re-usable fuel. That myth was shaken last week by a documentary broadcast on Arte entitled “Déchets – le cauchemar du nucléaire” (Waste: the nuclear nightmare) which showed that EDF, which is France’s main electricity provider, sends nuclear waste to Siberia where most of it is not recycled, but instead is laid to rest in the atomic security complex of Tomsk-7, Siberia.

The documentary provoked disarray in parliament, where the Junior Minister for the Environment, Chantal Jouanno, said she would order an internal enquiry. Speaking on France Info radio, she said: “For my part, I haven’t been able to confirm or deny this information, so there has to be an enquiry.”

The main argument of the documentary is that Areva and EDF run a fuel “cycle” where after first use in nuclear power plants, the fuels are treated and transformed into 3 % of of nuclear waste which has to be stored, 1% of plutonium which is re-used to make MOX (a mixture of uranium oxide and plutonium) and 96 % uranium which is enriched to produce new combustible fuels.

Whereas in fact, of the 96 % of the uranium which is sent to Russia to be enriched, only a tiny fraction is actually re-used (in 4 out of France’s 59 nuclear power plants). This means the real rate of re-use is closer to 10 %. Areva and EDF maintain that under French law, it is illegal to send nuclear waste overseas, and therefore the 96 % of uranium which goes to Russia is recyclable fuel.

Now, the fact that this used uranium is sent to Russia is not news. An official overview of France’s nuclear policy is available online, and the pdf entitled “L’énergie nucleaire en 110 questions“, on page 45, states the following: “The volumes of URT (uranium issu du retraitement) used today in France do not justify the extension of or the creation of a specific industry dedicated to the manufacture of URT fuel, this is why it has relies on existing installations overseas, for example in the Russian Federation.”

The semantics of this debate clearly illustrate the chasm between France’s elite engineering corps – notably graduates of the Ecole Des Mines – and the political class and civil society, both of whom have probably fallen victim to a kind of consensual blindness in wanting to believe the myth of a perfectly clean, green and safe nuclear industry in the competent hands of the country’s best and brightest, who themselves have operated behind the veil of their techno-scientific jargon which few have sought to explain clearly to the man in the street.

Earlier this year, Areva withdrew the use of its corporate slogan “L’Energie au sens propre” (“Energy in the literal sense of the term” with a play on the word “propre” which means clean) following action by the ARPP (France’s watchdog for advertising standards) based on a complaint filed by the Green party that the claim that nuclear energy was clean was inconsistent with the production of nuclear waste. Watch this short video (set, oddly, to “Funky Town”) to get a sense of the corporate message Areva is trying to get across – the offending slogan has been replaced by “Experts en énergie (Energy Experts).

Give your Christmas tree back to nature

Thanks to friend and community organizer Corinne for this tip on how to recycle your Christmas tree in Paris this year. The city authorities are organizing a pick-up of trees from January 2 to February 1 at 95 collection sites in the city’s parks and gardens. No ornaments or fake snow please – only the bare tree will be accepted. They will be ground up and used to enrich soil in the city’s green spaces. Last year 15,000 trees were recycled this way.

via Paris city hall website

“Picnic tax” on plastic cups and cutlery in 2009

As part of the government’s drive to use fiscal measures to encourage more sustainable behaviours, Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo announced this week that plastic plates and cutlery would, starting next year, face a “picnic tax” of 90 centimes to the euro for every kilogram. Similar “green” taxes on wasteful fridges, washing machines, televisions and batteries – accompanied by tax breaks on their more eco-friendly equivalents – are also under consideration. Each person in France produces on average 360 kilograms of waste per year, and France has more incinerators per person than any other country in Europe.

via Le Figaro


Growing greenhouse tomatoes with byproducts from oil drilling

Tomato growers in a seaside town in the southwestern deparment of the Landes have signed an agreement with Canadian oil company Vermilion to mass produce tomatoes in greenhouses heated using byproducts from oil drilling at Parentis-en-Born


The deal envisages building 17 hectares of greenhouses by 2012 which will provide the capacity to produce 30 to 85 million tons of tomatoes every year. The greenhouses will be heated by cogeneration – capturing byproduct heat from the oil drilling process and converting it into electricity. The project will cost 20 million euros and is funded by four farmers – all agricultural engineers belonging to Odelis, a fruit and vegetable cooperative in the south of France, as well as by regional and local authorities and the European Union.


Technically, this is a first for France. The sulphurized gas will be recaptured and used to power a cogeneration factory which will transform it into electricity. This electricity will in turn heat the greenhouses. Even the hot water expelled by the drilling operation at 60 C will be channelled through a heat pump to supplement the electricity generation. The greenhouses themselves will use water in a closed circuit and the tomatoes will be grown on eco-friendly substrata of coconut fibres which can be recycled. 


The deal provides an eco-friendly image for Vermilion as well as the prospect of staying competitive for the French tomato farmers, whose main competition comes from Spain, Morocco and Turkey, all of which have significantly lower labour costs. “More than 40 percent of our production costs come from electricity, which has become 30 percent more expensive in recent years,” said Bruno Vila, one of the partners in the project.


 via Le Monde


How to find a green job in France

A new green job search site launched in France this week called Clicandearth covering offers in all areas of the environment and sustainable development – climate, waste, water, renewable energy, site management, earth sciences. The site claims to be unique in the genre in France because the job offers are classified by sector.

Elsewhere on the green job front, Courrier Cadres magazine has a round-up in this month’s issue of the green job scene. The article divides the scene into three different categories: professions which are adapting, those which are taking off and those which are emerging. Among the adapters are specialists in environmental law working for corporations, green auditors, environmental consultants (carbon audits, best-practice training for staff etc) and green architects. The environmental law consultants need to track European Union law very closely because eighty percent (see here) of the laws affecting the environment in France originate in Brussels.
Job descriptions which are in the category of “taking off” include environmental risk manager, wind turbine project manager and hydrobiologist.
And those that are considered “emerging” include the following:
Agrobiology consultant – everyone wants organic fruits and vegetables but only 2 percent of cultivated land in France is farmed organically. This job entails advising and helping farmers convert to organic farming and to do some hand-holding during the transition.
Manager of an urban bicycle-sharing network: After Vélib in Paris and similar programmes in Lyons, Marseilles, growing numbers of French towns are eager to jump on the bandwagon. Making sure that each user can find a bicycle at any place or time of the day is a tall order. “You have to supervise the transfer of the bicycles from one station to another, keep the entire stock in perfect working order, organize the staff schedules – 400 people to manage in Paris,” said Eric Callé, 33, an engineer who heads up the operational division at Decaux, which runs the Vélib network in Paris.
Medical consultant for the home – this is someone who comes to your home to audit it for potential sources of allergies. Working in collaboration with your GP, they will conduct a one-on-one interview, collect air samples and do a thorough audit of the home to try and eliminate all allergens.
Environmental psychologist – Not really a green shrink, but rather someone who studies the relationship between individuals and where they live to produce recommendations which can improve their quality of life. Profession linked with the public sector, for instance in urbanization studies.