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article imageGreen Thumbs Up: France bans plastic cutlery, plates and cups

By Karen Graham     Sep 16, 2016 in Environment
France has taken what some people are calling a controversial step to reduce plastic pollution, by banning plastic cutlery, plates, and cups.
The measure is part of the Energy Transition For Green Growth bill that was passed in August of 2015. The act is an ambitious plan that allows France to make a positive and more effective contribution in tackling climate change, and in turn, becoming more energy independent.
Plastic-ware producers will have until 2020 to get their ducks in a row and change manufacturing methods so that their products are made of biologically-sourced materials that can be composted. Specifically, by 2020, 50 percent of material going into the production of plastic-ware must be organic. By 2025, the percentage of organic materials used to make plastic ware must be at least 60 percent biologically sourced.
The ban was initially proposed by the Europe Ecologie-Greens Party, according to CBS News, and they wanted it to take effect for manufacturers in 2017. But because of Environment Minister Segolene Royal's opposition to it, the law was postponed until 2020. The minister's opposition was sort of strange because Royal said the law was "anti-social," and would put an unnecessary burden on "families struggling financially who use disposable tableware."
And while a number of countries and several U.S. states have banned plastic bags, France is the only country to take that first step in banning plastic dishware and cutlery. About the only positive response to the ban has come from environmental groups, and they hope that France's ban will set an example for other countries to follow.
Opposition to the ban is overwhelming
Talk about an outcry, where to begin? Plastics manufacturers are very vocal, saying that not only will the ban on plastic-ware hurt consumers, but the ban violates European Union rules on the free movement of goods. That's a rather broad accusation but like the attempts to ban bisphenol A, a touchy subject.
In the bisphenol A case, the French Constitutional Council in 2015 ruled that the 2012 law suspending the manufacture and export of items using BPA unfairly restricted fair trade. Yet the council let stand the current law banning the use of BPA for products touching food within France. So manufacturers can still export products made with BPA to other countries.
While there is a lot of worry about a plastic-ware ban and its impact on consumers, the ban is also an opportunity for innovation and new product development. This should open people's minds to creating new products that are environmentally-friendly instead of wallowing in the idea that we're fine with what we have.
We are not fine, and the sooner businesses and lobbyists for the plastics and other industries begin to understand this, then we can all move forward toward a greener world. That's all France is trying to do and I applaud them, and they are certainly deserving of a big Green Thumbs Up.
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