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France to phase out single-use plastics starting January 1

File photo of plastic waste in a container at a recycling park near Brussels, Belgium, November 20, 2018.
File photo of plastic waste in a container at a recycling park near Brussels, Belgium, November 20, 2018. Reuters / Yves Herman

Starting January 1, three single-use plastic products will be banned in France: plates, cups, and cotton buds. More will be banned next year, marking the first steps toward the government’s goal of phasing out all single-use plastics by 2040.

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They’re used just once, but stay in the environment for hundreds of years. Now France is taking first steps towards banning single-use plastics, starting with three products: plates, cups, and cotton buds. Plastic straws and cutlery will follow on January 1, 2021.

France will begin phasing out plastic products from 2020 in keeping with EU regulations.
France will begin phasing out plastic products from 2020 in keeping with EU regulations. FRANCE 24 graphics studio

 

The ban was issued in a government decree, published on December 27, to bring France in conformity with European Union directives. It defines single-use plastics as those not designed to be reused “for a use identical to that for which it was intended”.

Shops that carry the banned products will be allowed to continue selling them for six months after January 1, provided they were produced or imported beforehand.

The decree includes a temporary exemption for compostable products containing at least 50 percent of organic materials, as well as for cutlery used in health and corrections facilities and on transport such as trains and airplanes. The exemptions will expire in July 2021.

>> Biodegradable plastic: A false promise?

This comes as French lawmakers continue to debate the details of a wider-ranging anti-waste law. A first version of the law, which aims to promote the “circular economy”, was passed by parliament earlier this month. It would set a 2040 target to phase out all single-use plastics, with the goal of recycling 100 percent of plastics by 2025. Specific plastic products would be phased out year by year, and recycling guidelines would be standardised throughout France by no later than the end of 2022.

As of 2018, only 25 percent of plastic packaging in France was recycled, while the rest was incinerated or put in landfills. This puts France behind the European average of 30 percent. Sceptics say it will be impossible for the country to reach a 100 percent recycling rate by 2025 from this starting point.

>> Plastic: Does France have a recycling problem?

This fall, an investigation by the online magazine Quartz found that at most 9 percent of plastic produced worldwide is recycled. Meanwhile, global plastic production continues to climb rapidly, the investigation found.
The last 15 years saw more than plastic produced than in all previous human history, and plastic production is expected to triple again by 2050.

This article was adapted from the original in French
 

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