France to ban destruction of unsold consumer products

France’s prime minister has announced a crackdown on the destruction of unsold or returned consumer products, a move that will affect luxury goods brands and online retailers such as Amazon.

Edouard Philippe said a ban on destroying non-food goods – including clothes, electrical items, hygiene products and cosmetics – would come into force within the next four years.

The announcement came after the success of green parties in last month’s European parliamentary elections, not least in France where the EELV party came third with 13.5% of the vote.

More than €650m (£576m) worth of new consumer products were thrown away or destroyed every year in France, according to the prime minister’s office.

“It is a waste that shocks, that is shocking to common sense. It’s a scandal,” said Philippe, as he launched the measure at a discount store in Paris.

The measure would make it compulsory to hand in the products to be re-used or recycled, and is part of a draft bill on the economy which is due to be discussed by the cabinet in July. It would come into law sometime between 2021-23.

Brune Poirson, a junior environment minister, promised a law to tackle waste in January after the broadcast of a TV documentary that showed containers of unsold or returned products at an Amazon warehouse being sent for destruction under agreements signed between the online firm and third-party retailers.

The British fashion brand Burberry caused a furore last year by acknowledging it had burned unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6m annually to prevent them being sold off cheaply.

The aim was to maintain the exclusivity and luxury element of the brand, and it later became clear the practice was relatively common in the industry.

Philippe’s office said special arrangements were anticipated for the luxury sector. Products which were not usable after a certain date would have exceptions.

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