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Traceability: a strategic asset for Emmaus initiatives?

Increasingly in Europe, politicians are aiming to introduce a system of extended producer responsibility (EPR) to manage waste and promote reuse in different sectors, such as electronics, textiles and furniture. In practice, this means that manufacturers of new products will become financially responsible for managing the products at the end of their lifecycle. As a result, our Emmaus groups can get involved and benefit from funding or facilities for our work thanks to the traceability system.

To find out more, we met Elsa Delouche, Traceability and Reuse Officer at Emmaus France. Elsa supports groups towards establishing the traceability of donations.

Could you tell us what traceability is and what types of “products” it applies to?

Definitions are varied, but the one I use, on which there seems to be a consensus, is as follows: an organisation system and tools that allow us to obtain data on activities, an efficient process (simple, accessible and stable).

In certain sectors, the data is expected by eco-organisations*, and provides access to different opportunities (financial support, free return of waste, access to deposits). In France (and shortly in all EU countries), this will apply to furniture and furnishings, toys and games, DIY and garden equipment, household appliances, sports and leisure goods, along with textiles, bedding and footwear.

What is the purpose of traceability for Emmaus groups?

I see traceability as an opportunity for groups and the movement:

  • It encourages us to improve working conditions by questioning the tools used, workstation safety and ergonomics.
  • It allows people to diversify their tasks (for example, using weighing equipment).
  • It encourages people to develop their skills (e.g. mastering software).
  • It contributes to steering the business and decision-making by providing objective, reliable data.
  • It enables us to promote our activities in the field to external stakeholders and partners, and to ensure that they are aware of the volume of donations received and processed.
  • It confirms Emmaus’ position in the reuse sector through reliable, quantitative data, fuelling the advocacy work carried out by Emmaus France and Emmaus Europe.

How and why was traceability introduced in our groups? How do the groups use it and what work does it entail?

The Emmaus France Federation promotes the freedom of groups to decide whether to introduce traceability or not. Its mission is to raise awareness among groups so that they can make an informed choice (the benefits or otherwise that they could enjoy). Furthermore, it encourages each group to define its own method, it does not advocate a single method. As a result, a wide variety of practices can be observed today:

  • On the choice of sectors tracked: track all sectors or select a few (often depending on the effort/gain ratio).
  • Regarding the method chosen: weighing? Counting? By combining both depending on the sector?
  • In terms of tools: paper materials? Software? A combination of both?

Traceability does not necessarily entail additional work; it all depends on the method and tools chosen by the group. Similarly, it is not a question of creating new tasks or developing our traditional reuse activities. The aim is to find a system to collect data on the key stages of our activity, collecting it during the activity, and then finding the tools to make it easier to use the data.

What is the Spanish viewpoint?
First-hand account by Eduardo Sanchez, director of Emaús Gipuzkoa within the group Emaús Fundación Social

In our group, we have always believed that it was very important to be able to provide reliable data about what we do with the waste we manage. We see this as an obligation to the public and to the public and private entities that place their trust in us to collect and manage waste.There are an increasing number of obligations to ensure the traceability of the waste we manage. For calls for tender launched by public authorities for the collection of textiles this is compulsory, and current legislation is increasing the obligations of waste managers.

For the past four years, we have been processing environmental documents electronically with public authorities. Today, a waste treatment contract must be signed with the entity generating the waste in order to collect it with our lorries, and we must have an identification document in the collection vehicle.

In addition, in the case of hazardous waste, we have to prepare a consignment note for each type of waste to be transported (each code requires a different consignment note). This notification enables us to draw up the documents to be carried by the lorry transporting the hazardous waste.

The requirements of European regulations and the presence of SCRAP (Scrap metal) mean that this issue will be essential in meeting the needs of public administrations and community systems, as well as public demand for information.

 

* In France (under the “polluter pays” principle) this is the name given to organisations that are financed by manufacturers to take care of managing the end-of-life of the equipment they put on the market.

Traceability at Emmaus Défi (France). Credit: Emmaus Europe.

Source: Provided by Verian for the European Parliament. Credit: European Parliament.

A worrying shift to the right for the future of Europe and Emmaus

On 9 June 2024, Europeans headed to the ballot boxes to elect their MEPs for the next five years. The results are clear: the conservative right has been significantly strengthened and the far right has gained ground. In contrast, all of the left-wing parties have lost seats, with the green parties hardest hit with a loss of 19 seats.

Within our movement, we firmly believe in a greener, more supportive and inclusive Europe. However, depending on the composition of future alliances between political groups, these choices may jeopardise our efforts to build a fairer society.

An alarming surge by the far right

In France, Italy, Austria and Hungary, far-right parties came out on top in the elections.  In other countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Latvia, they took second place.

At the European level, there are two far-right parties (ID and ECR), which obtained a total of 141 out of 720 seats. Although they have not yet formed an alliance, this option cannot be ruled out. These two parties are now the third and fifth most represented in the European Parliament. However, together they would constitute the second largest political force. In addition, around 90 elected MEPs have not yet joined political parties. Although these MEPs are currently unaffiliated, they broadly identify with far-right ideas.

The far right’s agenda is clearly the opposite of ours when it comes to Emmaus’ issues: putting the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum back on the table to make it even more restrictive for potential migrants, challenging the Green Pact and reducing pressure on Vladimir Putin.

A major strengthening of the European right

The major winners of these elections are without a doubt the members of the political group of the European conservative right (EPP). With a minimum of 190 out of 720 seats, they now form the largest political group in the European Parliament. The message sent to Europe is clear in terms of this party’s priorities: putting growth and a competitive economy first, focusing on insecurity, less attention on the environment and little focus on social issues.

A glimmer of hope?

In the Netherlands, although the far right won the general election at the start of the year, the alliance of social democrat and green groups came out on top at the European elections. In Finland, the far right only won a single seat and were ranked sixth, despite their presence in government. In Portugal, the social democrats dominated the elections, with the far right only winning two seats out of twenty-one. In Sweden, the social democrats took first place, relegating the far right to fourth position, with only three seats out of twenty-one. In Denmark, the social democrats and greens came top, while the far right finished in fifth place with a single seat.

Awaiting the formation of alliances and nominations for top jobs

MEPs must now form political groups before the next plenary session of the European Parliament which will be held on 16 July. On this occasion, they will choose the theme-based committees on which they will sit.

The European heads of state are expected to present their candidate for the presidency of the European Commission at the plenary on 28 July. It will be up to Members of Parliament to decide whether or not to validate this choice.

Once elected, the president will have the task of composing the College of Commissioners, made up of 27 commissioners appointed by the Member States, one from each country. The European Parliament will have the opportunity to hold hearings with its future commissioners and is expected to vote on whether or not to approve this choice in October.

The outgoing commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen, is in the running to be re-elected. Although she comes from the ranks of the EPP conservative right, she supported the Green Pact at a time when parties supporting environmental issues were a more significant political force. Will she turn her back on these issues given the new composition of Parliament?

European elections: a crucial issue for Emmaus

Between 6th and 9th June 2024, European Union citizens will elect the MEPs who will represent them at the European Parliament for the next five years.  These elections will largely determine what Europe will look like over the coming years.

Emmaus is taking action

With a view to raising awareness of the issues that affect our work and values in the run up to the European elections, Emmaus Europe has taken action on a number of fronts to raise awareness about these elections and their importance for Emmaus.

  • Our groups are opening their doors to election candidates who wish to find out more about what we do. We are inviting them to visit our premises, learn more about our work and become aware of the challenges we face.
  • Emmaus Europe has drafted two position papers, setting out our recommendations for action for the next 5-year term, and has also produced a leaflet to get as many people involved as possible.

General proposals – short version Detailed proposals – long version

Europe – a vital decision-making level for Emmaus’ work

European Union (EU) policies play a decisive role in the daily lives of each and every one of us, influencing matters such as our currency, movement between countries and agriculture.
For Emmaus, almost all areas of our work are affected by European laws.

The EU, Emmaus and the Social and Solidarity Circular Economy

European policies play a vital role in the day-to-day work of Emmaus groups, particularly in terms of our collecting, sorting, re-use and recycling activities. European Union directives on waste management regulate collection and sorting and have an impact on the re-use percentage to be applied in each country, which in turn influences our practices. For example, a separate collection of textiles will become obligatory in all EU countries by 2025. Emmaus Europe is calling for re-use and Social and Solidarity Economy stakeholders to feature prominently in these policies.

The EU, Emmaus and combating poverty and its causes

Although the EU cannot intervene directly in the social policies of Member States, it has recently strengthened its legislative framework to promote social rights. The aim is to encourage greater convergence of national policies and mobilise financial resources for this purpose. For example, the EU adopted the European Pillar of Social Rights, along with an ambitious action plan, particularly with regard to combating homelessness and ensuring a minimum wage. Emmaus Europe is active within the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and is campaigning to ensure that everyone has access to social protection and a minimum income representing at least 60% of the average standard of living in each Member State. The EU can also take action in other areas related to the causes of poverty, such as access to energy, health care, decent housing and digital technology. For example, the European Green Pact supports policies to renovate buildings to make them more energy efficient, and we are working to ensure that the poorest people benefit first.

The EU, Emmaus and welcoming migrants and refugees

One of the European Union’s major responsibilities concerns migration policies. The EU directly influences border management, and the way migrants and refugees are received, treated and integrated into European societies. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the EU has steered its policies towards tightening the closure of its borders and refusing to accept migrants. This disastrous policy approach is dramatically affecting the lives of people on the move who arrive in Europe. Emmaus firmly opposes this approach and defends freedom of movement and our vision of unconditional welcome.

The far right: a threat to Emmaus’ activities in Europe

We are very concerned about the rise of far-right parties, which pose a serious threat to organisations such as Emmaus, particularly in terms of our unconditional welcome policy, as well as our work to combat poverty. It is crucial to stand firm against the influence of parties dominated by racism and xenophobia that pit poor people against each other.
Are you a member of Emmaus Europe? Please also check out the webpage dedicated to the European elections on the home page of our member’s area.

 

Are you a member of Emmaus Europe? Please also check out the webpage dedicated to the European elections on the home page of our member’s area.

Contact
Manon Gaham, Advocacy and Awareness-raising Officer: manon.gaham@emmaus-europe.org
Eve Poulteau, Chief Executive: eve.poulteau@emmaus-europe.org

New Pact on Migration and Asylum

On 10 April, the European Parliament voted on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

This pact contains eight texts, all aimed at tightening external border control and undermining freedom of movement and settlement.

Normalising the practice of refoulement

In practical terms, this legislation will allow people who do not apply for asylum to be returned directly to the border. Refugees will still be prevented from submitting their asylum applications in the country that they would like to go to, where it would be easier for them to rebuild their lives because they speak the language of that country or already know people there.

Widespread detention at borders

Those seeking asylum will be detained in “sorting centres” outside the territory or at the border while waiting for their applications to be examined. Sorting will be carried out mainly on the basis of the applicant’s nationalitý, without really taking into account the individual nature of his or her situation. People will be held in these detention centres, and deprived of their freedom, for up to 12 weeks.

No real solidarity and the externalisation of borders

European Union member countries will be able to choose not to receive a person seeking asylum by opting for an alternative: they can pay €20,000, provide human resources to “protect” the EU’s borders (such as sending national border officers to European sorting centres), or they can put in place national policies to externalise borders (e.g. create bilateral agreements to expel people to countries that are often perpetrators of human rights violations).

“Instrumentalisation”, yet another concept for circumventing the right to asylum

This pact introduces a new concept known as the “instrumentalisation” of migration. As such, if the EU considers that a non-EU member is trying to put pressure on it by sending a large number of migrants to its borders, it could decide to suspend the processing of asylum applications altogether.

Identification and forced fingerprinting from the age of six

The Eurodac system (a European database that registers the fingerprints of migrants and asylum seekers in order to identify them) will from now on contain records (fingerprints and facial images) of all foreigners, including minors from the age of six, even if done so under duress.

Slight progress on employment of asylum seekers

Lastly, a directive on reception conditions shows marginal progress by giving asylum seekers the opportunity to work after six months in the country, instead of the current nine months. There are also improved guarantees on reception conditions. However, the downside to this is the widespread use of house arrest.

TAKING ACTION TOGETHER

Emmaus Europe strongly opposes this text! We urge you to take action by posting a message on social media to voice your opposition to this pact, using the hashtag #NotThisPact. Do not forget to tag @emmauseurope so that we can share your messages.