Le Nouveau Paris: Towards A Circular Economy

The pollution in Paris is such that breathing its air on a four-day visit is equivalent to smoking two cigarettes.

Accordingly, a person living in Paris passively smokes the equivalent of around 183 cigarettes a year.

These figures are alarming for Paris, capital of the world’s most popular country for tourism in 2019. Emerging in the 17th century as one of Europe’s most influential capitals in arts, commerce and science, Paris now receives upto 40 million tourists a year.

Spanning over a 104 km2 area, with a population exceeding 2 million, the economy of Paris is based largely on commerce, but also on transportation,construction, and industry.

Despite all its advancements, Paris has still not succeeded in curbing several environmental issues.


For the past few decades, Paris has struggled with  air pollution and emissions.

The principal sources of pollution in the metropolitan area are transport, heating and industry.

  • Unsurprisingly, road transport vehicles are responsible for 53% of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions of the Metropole du grand Paris. 15% of the volatile organic compounds, primarily hydrocarbons that occur in the vapour state, and 25% of the particulate matter are produced by an increasing fleet of diesel vehicles.
  • Around 3 to 4 million people are exposed to NO2 and PM10  levels above the European regulations in Paris.

It’s no wonder the Paris region has a high prevalence of respiratory illnesses.


In addition to the air pollution, Paris faces other issues that obstruct a well rounded economy. 

  • As a result of the booming tourism industry, Paris has high levels of catering activity and a large quantity of incoming food per resident, much of which is wasted.
  • Overwhelming amounts of waste are generated by the construction and public works departments, accounting for 45% of exported waste, out of which only 30% is recycled.

The city of Paris picks up around 350 tonnes of cigarette butts every year, despite the wall mounted ashtrays and 68 euro fine on anyone caught throwing them on the streets. It is estimated that 4 out of every 10 of disposed cigarette butts are disposed irresponsibly, ending up in water bodies, beaches and forests. As much as a single cigarette  can contaminate hundreds of litres of water. 


Between 2050 and 2100, climate change could lead to extreme weather events, a decline in water in water stressed zones, increased heat stress, sea level rise, losses in the agricultural sector, and an extension of areas affected by soil degradation.

Flooding in Paris

The Seine, flowing through the heart of Paris, has been known to flood the city on multiple occasions in the past.

The flooding of the Seine in 2016 and 2018 is attributed to climate change, when parts of France got months’ worth of rain in a few days, resulting in flood levels reaching threatening levels of 6m.

High Emissions 

In its Climate and Country Health Profile, 2015, WHO reported the following effects of climate change in France under a high emissions scenario:

  • The mean annual temperature is projected to rise by an average of 4.9C from 1990 to 2100.
  • An annual average of about 435,100 people are projected to be affected by flooding due to sea level rise each year between 2070 and 2100 without large investments in adaptation.
  • Heat related deaths in the 65+ age group are expected to increase to about 61 deaths per 100,000 by 2080 compared to about 4 deaths per 100,000 annually between 1961 and 1990. 

In order to stay below the 2ºC upper limit as per the Paris Agreement of 2015,  it is estimated that global annual CO2-energy emissions, currently at 5.2 tons per capita, need to be reduced to 1.6 tons per capita.

Pacing Homelessness

The high rates of homelessness are attributed to the high cost of living in the city.

According to a BBC report, there are around 29,000 homeless people living in and around Paris, out of which 8000 sleep on the streets every day.

In addition, migrants who come to the city in search of a better life are unable to secure jobs without their documents.


The  Departments, Metropolis and City administration of Paris have done a commendable job by collaborating with  their specific skills. Together they were able to implement actions based on the Circular Economy concept on a daily basis.

Recovery of construction materials

  •  Leftovers from road pavings are taken to the City of Paris recycling centre to be reworked or recycled.
  • 50% of the 1500 tonnes of granite laid out every year is sourced from recycled granite.
  • In 2015, the Green Spaces Department created an interdepartmental digital platform for the exchange of material, objects and furniture, which is continuously being developed to include other business applications.

Water management 

  • The Paris City Council approved a new blueprint for the non-potable water network in 2015, which plans on optimizing and modernizing the network by devising new means to cool the city, and adapt to climate disturbances. 
  • To improve the responsiveness in case of leaks, controlled water volumes for irrigation and improved knowledge of consumption, sub-meters and remote monitors have been installed.

Fight against food wastage

  • The City Hall municipal canteen, in addition to other municipal canteens, are equipped with an organic waste sorting system, which reduces waste and recovers energy from organic waste. 
  • 19 local non profits have been selected for the redistribution of unsold edible fruits and vegetables, with complete aid from the municipality in partnership with contractors.
  • The ambitious Sustainable Food Plan of the City of Paris made it possible to achieve a 32.9% sustainability in food by 2015, with an aim to achieve 50% by 2020.

Mobility and goods transport 

  • 15 Urban Logistics Spaces, rationalizing goods and transport by the pooling of vehicles are spread across the territory of Paris.
  • More than 58 shared cars and bicycles were installed between 2014 and 2016 to be used for work related journeys, used by over 700 people. Autolib services are also actively utilized.
  • In 2019, 2.7 million diesel cars and vans manufactured before 2006 and two or three wheelers  manufactured before 2004  were banned from entering the city on weekdays to battle the deaths caused by particulate pollution.


  • The ORDIF, Ile de France Region Waste Management Observatory, is a non profit set up by the government responsible for continuous monitoring of waste management, enabling development of technical waste management solutions, and dissemination of waste management awareness.
  • Friends of the Earth is an independent non profit environmental and human rights network, which helped build the French Ecological Movement. It works toward the advent of sustainable societies.


As of 2015, 96% of French companies turned in annual CSR reports. Kering and L’Oreal were among the 11 French companies in the top 100 global CSR leaders in the 2017 KPMG Corporate Knights list.

  • Kering, the biggest luxury goods brand, with over 35,000 employees and an annual 12 billion turnover, has 45% lower environmental impacts than an average company its size. It also announced an ambitious 10 year programme to reduce total environmental impacts by 40% and CO2 emissions by 50% by 2025.
  • L’Oreal, the world’s biggest producer of personal products, with an annual turnover of  26 billion, revealed in 2016 that it has reduced CO2 emissions  by 67%, water consumed by 46% and waste generated by 35% since 2005. They aim to achieve 100% sustainability in product manufacturing and renovating by 2020.


The circular economy has the ability to create “reshored” jobs, while promoting new business opportunities for the actors by localizing the exchange of goods and services. 

  • The circular economy already employs nearly 600,000 people in France and there is an estimated potential for 200,000 to 400,000 additional jobs, including 50,000 for the Île-de-France region alone.
  • By 2030, the sorting, collection and recycling of packaging could generate more than 10,000 jobs, and industrial ecology around 4000 jobs. 
  • 2015 WHO study showed that proper control of vehicular emissions could save 434,200 people from the effects of flooding by 2080.
  • The local nature of the circular economy can help tackle the unemployment, and hence the homesless-ness prevalent in the city of Paris.


Circularity has several advantages for the economy. Globally, the economy would benefit $2 trillion a year from more effective resource management, while having a positive impact on the ecological systems, which will not deplete or overload them. As the cost of raw materials will decrease substantially, while promoting employment and innovation. 

1. Economic Benefits

  • Substantial Resource Savings
  • Innovation Stimulus
  • Economic Growth
  • Growth of Employment

2. Environmental Benefits

  • Less greenhouse gases
  • Vital air, soil and water bodies
  • Conservation of nature reserves


In the 2015 Paris Climate change agreement, France made the following NDC of a 40 percent target reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 and a 75 percent reduction by 2050 compared to 1990.


Earth5R’s ACT project involves citizens in meeting needs and addressing sustainability issues that affect their local ecosystem. If the solution is not local, it is not sustainable.

Paris Peace Forum 

Earth5R was chosen to be a part of the first Paris Peace Forum as a Project Leader in the Environmental sector for promoting peace with global governance.

Earth5R’s ACT Project is one out of 24 Environmental projects selected all over the world. The ACT Project in Powai involved Clean-up activities, Environmental awareness programs and plantation drives. It has positively impacted over 1,70,000 underprivileged families, providing them with training on Waste Management, Financial Literacy, and Waste to Wealth program.

The project gained attraction exponentially giving way to further developments in the form of potential partnerships and association with various international organisations like the expansion of the A.C.T to the African and Latin American States.


Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs across India. Earth5R specializes in circular economy based projects. Earth5R also offers short term and long term environmental courses.

Earth5R’s Global Sustainability Hub is a cross-sector and cross-country collaboration in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is an excellent opportunity for governments and the private sector to engage with communities, use Sustainability-based models to drive economic changes and create social and environmental impact.

Reported by Ankita Nambiar, edited by Aastha Dewan