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Article publié le 21 February 2022 par Olympe CHABERT, co-founder of SmartBack with the help of Pauline CHOSSEC, founder of E-Picking et Eddy RICHAUVET, founder de ShopRunBack

A financial and logistical nightmare or an opportunity to build customer loyalty?

Where does the 1:1 take-back obligation come from?

Since January 1st, 2022, the Anti-Waste French Law for a Circular Economy (AGEC) imposes on sellers to take back old furniture from customers for free.

To understand why, let’s go back to the origins of the regulation.

The idea of “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR), based on the “polluter pays” principle is not new! Created in 1975, it aims at making companies responsible for the entire life cycle of the products they bring on the market, from their design to their end-of-life. Thus, since 2012, furniture producers pay an eco-contribution to Ecomobilier, the eco-organization dedicated to waste furniture, to take care of: upstream prevention, sorting of products, dismantling and recycling.

But in order to recycle old furniture, an essential step is recovering it, to then redirect it to the Ecomobilier collection points. That is what the new decree tackles: sellers will have to offer their customers the possibility to give back their old furniture at the point of delivery, meaning at home in the case of online shopping, at no extra cost to them. On average, French people throw away 3 pieces of furniture per year: there is a lot of work to do!

What does it change for the furniture industry players?

Retailers have two obligations:

  • to highlight the possibility of take-back in the customer’s purchasing process (it implies a technological development on their e-commerce website)
  • to organize the pick-up of the product (logistics operation).

They instinctively asked transporters to implement this service. But it is not that easy! First of all, there is a lot of educational work to be done with the customer to explain the offer and its terms, to filter the requests and to take into account last-minute cancellations. The next problem is that old furniture is not packed and of variable size: the pieces can thus easily damage the new products to be delivered. It would also involve more breaks of loads, more handling and require a better organization of the picking tour. Finally, knowing what to do with the products is not an easy task. It is unthinkable to bring them back to the seller’s warehouse, but it is complicated to find a solution adapted to them, moreover locally, while limiting storage and the time spent.

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What can be done?

Let’s rely on innovation to structure the sector! We need to set up new processes, connect all different stakeholders, and automate the orchestration of the different stages of the take-back process.

To do this, we can draw inspiration from tech start-ups that have worked to digitize and simplify the e-commerce returns process. ShopRunBack has succeeded in this challenge by increasing by more than 50% the revalorization rate of returns for retailers. This was achieved by optimizing the various parts in the value chain, from customer declaration on the merchant site to qualification of the reverse logistics flow, including return to stock or second life channels.

Logistics start-ups, such as E-Picking with its XXL automated lockers located throughout France, could provide their solution to optimize the collection of 1:1 furniture return.  Batches of furniture could be collected locally in E-Picking’s secure lockers and then transported to the appropriate Ecomobilier recycling points. Using consignments would not only make it possible to massify the flows, but also to control the time slots for re-delivery, since they are accessible 24 hours a day, the cost of the last/first kilometre, and the so-called “buffer” storage, while ensuring a high level of security and traceability.

And how do we take advantage of this new law?

You understood it: the implementation of the 1:1 take-back obligation and the organization of a recycling channel represent significant costs for sellers. This new disposal service is “offered” to the customer, but it would be wrong to say that it is free. It is therefore important to make consumers aware of the real cost of this approach, and to draw benefits from it.

Indirectly, this new regulation encourages brands to consider their environmental impact, to rethink the life cycle of their products and to listen to their customers’ expectations. Nowadays, 88% of them want more engagement from brands.

Why not make the “1:1 take-back” an opportunity to really commit to the circular economy? The law focuses on old furniture, legally considered as “Waste”, but we have to admit that many of the products collected are still in good condition, do not necessarily deserve to end up in the dumpster and could make many more people happy.

842,000 tons of waste furniture were collected in 2020 and only 5% were reused, so we can clearly do better! Our objective: to reach 60% of reuse!

How can we achieve this?  SmartBack developed a turnkey solution for the management of the 1:1 take-back obligation for sellers whose objective is to save a maximum of products from the dumpster. When a customer decides to get rid of his furniture, the brand entrusts SmartBack with it. From there, the start-up diagnoses the condition of the product and offers it to an association of its network, as close as possible to the customer’s house. In this way, the end customer gets a double pleasure: by buying a new piece of furniture and by giving his old one to a local, committed organization that will find a new owner for it.



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