France just passed a law that says all plastic plates, cups, and utensils will be banned by 2020, and replacements will need to be made from biologically sourced materials that can be composted.
The new law follows a total ban on plastic shopping bags in July, and is part of the country’s Energy Transition for Green Growth Act – a plan to make France a world leader in adopting more environmentally friendly practices, and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
With 4.73 billion plastic goblets discarded in France in 2015 alone, and roughly 17 billion plastic bags used annually in supermarkets around the country, the new laws will hopefully put an end to France’s dependence on disposable plastic wares.
France has taken a number of environmentally friendly steps recently as part of its Energy Transition for Green Growth Act. France is hoping to become a global leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping the environment. Their aim is to embrace a circular economy of waste disposal that stretches from the design of products all the way through recycling.
Plastic shopping bags already banned in France
According to the new law, the distribution of disposable plastic bags at supermarket check-outs has been banned as of July, and plastic bags will be prohibited in fruit and vegetable departments from 1 January 2017.
A ban on the distribution of disposable cooking utensils, cups, and plates will be enforced in 2020, which will give manufacturers time to adjust.
Local ministers stipulated that in three years’ time, 50 percent of the material used to procure such items will have to be organic and compostable, and that proportion will rise to 60 percent by 2025.
The news has been welcomed by conservation groups around the world, and with predictions that by 2050, there’ll be more plastic than fish in our oceans, is the kind of definitive action that’s needed if we’re going to have any chance of mitigating the problem of waste in a growing global population.
But not everyone is happy.
Plastics industry trying to stop ban
Predictably, those in the plastic packaging industry are pulling out all the stops to try to prevent the ban from going into effect. The European manufacturing organization Pack2Go Europe says it will fight the law. They claim that it violates the rights of manufacturers to make their packaging as they see fit, and claim it will somehow inspire people to litter more.
According to the Washington Post, supporters actually wanted the ban to be enacted sooner, but French environmental minister Segolene Royal had viewed the provision as being “anti-social” initially, because families with lower incomes tend to use plastic plates and utensils. This resulted in the ban being postponed until 2020.
If other countries follow France’s example, it could well improve the serious problems that are currently facing our environment. With reports that we’re now making 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago – and mostly for packaging – and that production is expected to double again in the next 20 years, drastic measures might be all we have left.
Let’s hope France can pull it off.