A Frenchman staying in Germany can only wonder at the recycling habits of the locals. In supermarkets, a number of products, such as drinks and certain yoghurts, are all sold in recyclable packaging with a returnable deposit. We therefore have to consider the price of the deposit on the packaging during purchase (variable relative to the type of packaging) and organise the logistics appropriately to return the packaging and recoup the deposit. The impressive deposit return machines in supermarkets are almost a tourist attraction for the French. Similarly, a Frenchman will be surprised to see how his German neighbour sorts glass according to colour : green, brown or clear.
But even though the daily approach to recycling is markedly different, France and Germany are cooperating and working closely on a number of subjects within the field of green economy, as the quantity and variety of Franco-German actors only goes to show. Moreover, the special relationship between France and Germany provides a perfect setting for activities common to both countries. Here is a little overview.
France and Germany : More than just commercial partners
The two countries are clearly important business partners, as shown by foreign trade figures. The German Federal Statistical Bureau (Statistisches Bundesamt) recorded that French imports from Germany rose to a value of €105.2bn in 2017, while French exports to Germany also rose to €64.1bn in the same year.
On top of this, more and more French and German companies are opening up offices in each other’s country. According to the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies in France (INSEE), French companies account for more than 2,700 facilities in Germany, employing more than 360,000 people. German companies in France account for 4,500 facilities and more than 310,000 jobs, according to the German Foreign Chamber of Commerce in Paris (AHK-Paris).
Peter Buerstedde, Director of Markets and Analysis for France (at Germany Trade & Invest Paris), reckons that should this favourable economic relationship continue it will create a healthy environment for investment in both countries. Both have taken concrete measures to stimulate development and innovation, with particular benefit for SMEs.
Of particular relevance is the PACTE (Action Plan for Growth and Business Transformation) Act put into place by the French government to support SMEs in France. Meanwhile, in order to maintain the vitality of German SMEs in the face of future challenges, the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) creates incentives for SMEs on several levels, such as the Zukunft Mittelstand (Future SME) program.
European Directives : A powerful engine for commercial activities in both countries
In the Circular Economy Package, the EU has decided that a 65% municipal waste recycling rate should be in place by 2035. For packaging waste, a recycling rate of 70% is set for 2030. It should be emphasized that, in general, the reuse and recovery of materials is the priority. But for France, these rates are not enough. The roadmap for the French circular economy is aiming for a 100% plastic waste recycling rate by 2025. In Germany, according to the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), plastic waste is almost entirely recycled, but in the form of energy. The material recycling reaches only 1%, however, one of the challenges ahead which could provide new business opportunities for French and German SMEs especially.