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Symposium 2014

Virtual Library File - From Waste to Resource

The Challenge

Trying to put a value on the global waste market is difficult, but looking at one country can help to give a sense of scale: in India alone, waste is a two billion US dollars industry. The percentage ...

Trying to put a value on the global waste market is difficult, but looking at one country can help to give a sense of scale: in India alone, waste is a two billion US dollars industry. The percentage of waste recycled varies wildly from country to country and from region to region. The ability to recycle waste depends at the very least on political will, municipal financial ability, societal awareness, and the established infrastructure to support those efforts.

Mankind has long possessed the notion of rarity, and recognised the limited nature of its resources compared with the extent of its needs. Everything available had to be used and nothing – or practically nothing – was ever discarded. However, the Industrial Revolution obliged mankind to adopt a new rationale, that of exploitation, predatory behaviour and the consumption of resources, whether sustainable or not, with no apparent limits. Gradually waste became regarded as pollution and had to be collected, hidden or buried, with minimum impact on the environment. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the world experienced a series of shocks affecting as much the natural resources markets as the climatic and environmental equilibrium of our planet. The explosion of prices in world markets in 2008 impacted economies reaching their limits as much in demo- graphic as physical and biological terms. Rarity had suddenly returned to centre stage of our concerns. Mankind had now collect, sort, recover and recycle, and in a word, get back to the ancient ideal of closing the material cycle  loop by transforming waste into material resources. Waste management had been a matter of proximity for a long time, and tended to be perceived in a caricatural manner in its environmental pollution reduction task. Today it is becoming the increasingly world-wide problem of managing resource supplies exploited for the energy and materials they provide. The increase in world flows of scrap and recovered cellulose fibres and plastics has turned the developed countries of the northern hemisphere into a source of supply, one which those in southern hemisphere are now beginning to exploit. This is inducing new problems of interdependence between north and south. The 2009 World Waste Panorama study is the result of collaboration between Veolia Environmental Services , world No.1 in the waste management, recovery and recycling domain, and CyclOpe , the leading European research institute in the area of raw material and commodity markets. The study has been produced by Catherine Gaillochet, a legal expert specialising in environmental law, under the direction of Philippe Chalmin, Professor with the Paris-Dauphine University and Chairman of CyclOpe.