A new law that came into effect last month will see France ban all plastic cups and plates (not including biodegradables) as part of the proposed ‘Energy Transition for Green Growth’. Plastic bags were banned in July, as is the case in several other countries, but France is the first to extend this ban to cups and plates.
Producers have until 2020 to ensure that all plastic plates and cups sold are made from at least 50% biodegradable material. In 2025 this will increase to 60%.
Developing the circular economy and sustainable waste management is one of the six fields of action in the Energy Transition; it’s great to see this objective translated into progressive policy so quickly. The ban was initially proposed by the Europe Ecologie-Greens Party.
However, the decision has faced criticism. France’s Environment Minister said the move was ‘Anti-Social’ because low-income families rely on plastic utensils. Pack2Go, which represents European packaging manufacturers, expressed its concern that the ban should spread and argued it breaks European Union rules on the free movement of goods, and would encourage littering as people thought the cups would biodegrade.
These arguments aside, the sheer volume of plastic waste is astounding: 4.7 billion plastic cups are used in France each year, with less than 1% of those recycled. Plastic waste is a huge global problem, resulting in the equivalent of a garbage truck filled with plastic being dumped into the ocean every two minutes. It is estimated that if action is not taken soon, by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish.
Fortunately, progressive policy responses are gaining traction. The UK recently banned the use of microplastics in cosmetics, and it now looks like France could be the first of many to take a decisive stand on the shocking levels of waste produced by disposable plastics.