Circular economy series #2: Normandy

CE2Welcome back! Every week, you will find out a bit more about the circular economy in France and the opportunities for Dutch organisations to collaborate! Part 1 gave a general overview at the French national level. You can (re)read that blog here. Going forward, the next editions will provide regional overviews. Did you know that metropolitan France has 13 regions? A quick calculation tells me we will be here for another, inspiring, 13 weeks.

Why focus on the circular economy on a regional level?

France is not just Paris. Each French region contributes to the transition to the circular economy. And this creates opportunities for collaboration with Dutch organisations also active in the circular sector. The three main reaons should you should take a regional view to enter the French circular economy market are:

  1. Innovation: circular economy projects are drivers of innovation! There is no blueprint how to get to circularity, so we need to experiment to find out what works. Creating pilot projects on a regional level allows organisations to start small, experiment, learn, redesign and scale up.
  2. Resilience: creating local resource loops in a vital aspect to establish the circular economy. But each region has different resources needs. What is true for all of them though is that the circular economy optimizes resources efficiency, lessens dependency on materials from elsewhere, and thereby increases the economy’s resilience at the local and regional level.
  3. Social connection: regional projects’ success lies in the ties it makes with the local population and their needs. Including citizens and local organisations is much easier at a regional level.

In short, the quickest way to success is by adapting your circular economy project to the local supply (of resources and expertise) and demand of the region. And how know what the regions prioritize? By reading these blogs!


Part 2 of this blog series is about Normandy. Normandy is a coastal region and its economy is strongly linked with the sea. The different ports* (Rouen, Le Havre and Caen) are the central business hubs. In addition to important sectors such as transport, fishing and agriculture, the region produces a large proportion of energy for France (14,2%).

Normandy in numbers:

  • 3 million inhabitants
  • 90,5 billion euros GDP
  • 30 100 km2
  • 14,2% of French energy production
  • 1 circular economy association
    • With over 600 members
  • Approximately 12 million tons of waste
    • of which 5.8 million tons construction waste

Key economic sectors:

  • Agrofood and fisheries
  • Energy
  • Mobility and transport
  • Aeronautics and space
  • Pharma and cosmetics
  • Healthcare equipment

Fun fact: Ports create economic activity, but also a lot of waste! Dutch and French already work together to use waste available in a big port area! A partnership between Dutch (Shell and Nouryon), French (Air Liquide) and Canadian (Enerkem) companies, together with the Port of Rotterdam, resulted in the first large-scale plant in Europe to process non-recyclable waste into methanol. The plant can make 270 million liters of methanol from 360,000 tons of waste !

Voorbeeld port Rotterdam

What about waste in Normandy?

In October 2015, the ‘Regional plan for the prevention and management of waste’ (Plan régional de prévention et de gestion des déchets) was adopted. Several kinds of waste are included: household, organic, chemical/dangerous and construction waste. Nuclear and military waste are left out of scope. Normandy is one of the pioneering regions and first to adopt such a waste plan, which actions focus on three things: (1) prevention and instruction of the Normands, (2) implementation of experiments that provide solutions to priority projects, and (3) support of best-practices and innovative projects.

Some nice example:

  • ‘The Leopards of Sorting Waste’ team of 14 young volunteers (16 to 25 years old) started a public campaign about recycling and waste. They will make a tour around Normandy until May 2020 to teach local communities how to compost organic waste and prevent food waste!
  • Since construction waste makes up almost half of the total amount of the region (5.8 million tons), the region announced extra (financial) support for projects to valorize the waste. Public organisations will give the right example by (re)using more recycled materials in their construction projects. And a network for the region offering local solution for the management of construction waste will be set up.

Who are pushing the circular transition in Normandy?

Since 2017, the circular economy has become a priority for the region of Normandy. Local economic actors have united to accelerate circular economic development and set up the group: Normandie Économie Circulaire (NECI). They have 600 members. In this broad partnership structure, with the support of the national government and the region, stakeholders come together to discuss and define challenges and commitments for a local circular economy. This effort resulted in the strategy for a circular economy in Normandy:

In the strategy four commitments, each with their own challenges, are identified:

  1. Create local value circles from resources of the territory
    • Challenge 1: preserving and developing renewable resources
    • Challenge 2: substitute and recover non-renewable materials
  2. Accelerate change of economic practices
    • Challenge 3: establish a competitive and eco-efficient economy
    • Challenge 4: facilitate the transition of business to new economic models
    • Challenge 5: develop industrial, territorial and inter-company sustainability
  3. Link supply and demand for responsible consumption
    • Challenge 6: adjust purchasing and consumption practices
    • Challenge 7: develop local, high-quality supply
  4. Let’s act together
    • Challenge 8: mobilize actors and territories
    • Challenge 9: improve knowledge through observation
    • Challenge 10: raise awareness and offer training for circular economy

Moreover, a special feature of the NECI club is their laboratory of ideas: “The NECI lab”. This is a think tank set up to provide regional responses to the problems encountered by members of the network. It gathers experts in higher education and research, such as schools and universities, and members of NECI to brainstorm solutions and set up pilot projects.

Latest developments

  • Construction: The association for the promotion of eco-construction in Normandy (ARPE Normandie) launched a map of sustainable construction companies. The map is very comprehensive with categories ranging from architects to bio-based material suppliers.
  • Waste management: the term ‘dépôts sauvages’ can be literally translated as ‘wild trash’, it refers to the illegal dumping of waste – often in nature. To tackle this problem, which is a challenge for the whole country, there is a new website called Sentinelles de la Nature where people can signal such dumping, so it can be resolved more quickly.
  • Packaging: a huge new sorting center for packaging and paper waste will open in 2023 in Colombelles, in the port of Caen. The center will receive waste from 14 (!) collectives in the west of Normandy to recycle. By bringing all that waste to one center instead of 14, the region hopes to make its waste management more efficient.
  • Curious for more? Here you can find more good examples of waste management and circular economy in Normandy.

Opportunities to collaborate internationally

  • From trash to treasure: Waste management and valorisation solutions are highly sought after in Normandy, especially in order to meet the goals described in the ‘Regional plan for the prevention and management of waste’ (PRPGD). For example recycling and upcycling of clothing, machines, construction material, car tires, etc. Note that managing construction waste is a priority for the region. This creates an opportunities for firms with expertise to enter this local market.
  • Recycling is just one aspect of the circular economy. Normandy puts a focus on waste management, leaving other aspects of circularity largely unexploited. While closing resource loops also requires more efforts to establish e.g. sharing economy, repair facilities or eco-design. Exploring these new routes to the circular economy and expanding the offer of expertise and services is expected to be of growing interest for the region.
  • For startups, a new incubator located in Rouen will be dedicated to social innovations and circular econmy, called: KATAPULT. They are looking for new startups to join there program for 2020! Applications are open from 6 January until 28 February 2020. For more information (in French), look here.
  • Also relevant for startups (and growing SMEs), is the international business support of the FFWD Normandie. Once selected, they will help accelerate your business by combining financing (capital investment) and intensive tailor-made support over a period of up to one year.
  • The region positions itself, due to its location along maritime routes and proximity to Paris and London, as an hub for international companies. If you are looking for business development support from the region, check out the website (in English) of the development agency of Normandy.

In conclusion, these developments show the developments in the regional circular economy and could pose opportunities for Dutch stakeholders to enter the market or start collaboration projects. Interested? In order to move from knowledge to action, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency ( and the Embassy of the Netherlands in France are there for you. Did you know the Embassy has a network through all of France? Our representatives are not only located in Paris, but we also have two regional offices in Nantes and Lyon. Moreover, a large network of honorary consuls are present, from Marseille to Lille. All of us are available to Dutch organisations who have questions about doing business or research in France. So do not hesitate to contact us.