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Modern Waste Management Systems

Waste management systems are called to move towards so-called integrated management, this development already being at work for several reasons. In this article, we will shed light on French policy on household waste management, and in particular on its two structuring principles, which are recovery (recovery of materials and energy) and proximity (treatment of residues as closely as possible from their production). These principles, established by the framework law of 1992, are the subject of an operational translation by local actors through the choice of treatment procedures and the definition of a management space.

Insofar as they are based on an inflection of the treatment systems to allow the valorization of the materials and on a more marked territorial anchoring of the treatment solutions, these principles arise from a technical and territorial integration. This integration is in line with the precepts of sustainable urban development, by associating an optimized management of resources, a transverse consideration of the problem and a responsibility of urban spaces as for the externalities which they produce.

Incineration, which is the destination of 43% of household waste generated in France in 2004 according to Ademe, allows a so-called energy recovery in the form of district heating and or electricity production. It is a question, from this example, of highlighting the logics of convergence and divergence between different components of an integrated waste management.

We will show how technical and territorial integration come together through a trend that is emerging with the requalification of waste management in terms of energy imperatives, but come up against the social rejection of incineration. The oppositions are in fact hampering the installation of equipment near urban spaces, places of deposits of materials to be eliminated and reception of the energy produced.

They also force a debate on the problem, revealing points of tension relating to the hierarchy between different forms of recovery, the distinction between waste and resources or the fragile balance between prevention, elimination and recovery. Any waste management company has to be positioned to respond to these challenges, including offering solutions for recycling or hazardous materials treatment.

The analysis is informed by a study of French household waste management policy as well as by empirical observations relating to planning processes and local conflict situations. Attention is focused on the processes of justification and legitimization on which the arguments and positions of the actors and institutions concerned are based, at national and local levels. The thesis defended is that the incineration technique, which responds to some extent to integrated waste management but arouses very strong opposition, highlights the tensions between the precepts of sustainable development applied to urban management.

The demonstration is organized in three stages. First, a review of the evolution of French waste management policy highlights the place of recovery and the tools adopted to implement it. We will then look at the drivers of territorial integration seen through the expectations of localized energy recovery, to in a third step, identify the points of tension where the couple of technical integration and territorial integration stumble, which come to redefine the borders of the waste problem.

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