The existing labelling requirements for recycling in France
The French law of 10 February 2020 on the fight against waste and the circular economy (“Agec Law”) requires that any household product placed on the market and subject to the extended producer responsibility, with the exception of household glass beverage containers, be marked with i) a sign informing the consumer that the product is subject to recycling instructions (called the “Triman logo”) and ii) information regarding said recycling instructions (Article L. 541-9-3 of the French Environmental Code).
Example of the Triman logo and recycling instructions
French law requires that if several components of the product are subject to different recycling instructions, these instructions must be detailed component by component. The information must appear on the product, its packaging or, failing that, in the other documents supplied with the product.
The household products subject to the extended producer responsibility are listed in Article L. 541-10-1 of the French Environmental Code and include notably most forms of packaging, electrical and electronic equipment, certain medicines, clothing and shoes, toys, etc.
The EU infringement procedure against France
On 15 February 2023, the EU Commission launched an infringement procedure against France by sending it a formal notice regarding these labelling requirements for recycling of household products (see press release here).
The infringement procedure is laid out in Articles 258 to 260 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (“TFUE”) and can be initiated by the EU Commission when it considers that a Member State has failed to fulfil its obligations under the EU treaties. The formal notice is the first step of these procedure and can be followed by a reasoned opinion from the EU Commission and ultimately a potential referral of the matter to the Court of justice of the EU (“CJEU”) (see a full description of the procedure here).
In the case at hand, the Commission considers that the French authorities:
- have not conducted a sufficient analysis of the proportionality of their policy choice in light of the EU principle of free movement of goods and
- are in breach of the notification obligations under the Single Market Transparency Directive (Directive no. 2015/1535).
France has until mid-April 2023 to respond to the concerns of the EU Commission.
In the meantime, companies should continue following the Triman logo and recycling requirements which remain in force until either i) France amends or repeals them or ii) the CJEU rules that the requirements are contrary to EU law. That being said, this formal notice does indicate that there are likely concerns about the compliance of the Triman logo and recycling instructions requirements with EU law.
- France has until mid-April 2023 to respond to the EU Commission’s formal notice.
- Following that, the EU Commission may issue a reasoned opinion. Ultimately, the matter could be referred to the CJEU.
Until then, or until France amends or repeals the legislation, companies should continue following the Triman logo and recycling requirements which remain in force.
Authored by Christine Gateau and Alexis de Kouchkovsky.