France advances the fight against plastic pollution


An anti-waste law promoting circular economy has been adopted earlier this year by the French National Assembly. Its target is to reinforce producers' responsabilities, accuracy of information to consumers, simplification of waste sorting and waste reduction by optimizing recycling. Surfrider Europe highlights the main points of the 2020 legislation and explains how it will reduce plastic pollution of our ocean.

France integrates European bans of certain single-use plastics

Since January 1st, 2020, single-use plastic cups, plates and cotton swabs have been banned in France. Subsequently, new bans will be added on January 1st, 2021 for plastic straws, coffee stirrers, cutlery, and balloons rods, along with expanded polystyrene containers (such as take-out food containers), as outlined by the European directive on single-use plastics, adopted in June 2019. In addition, thanks to Surfrider Europe’s influence, bioplastic substitutions for all these products will be banned as they have similar impact on the ocean.

With the new law, it is now mandatory to provide consumers with accurate information regarding proper waste sorting, and details of the composition and recyclability of material. Producers also have new responsibilities concerning waste management. New facilities will open to improve processes and certain industries; such as the cigarette industry, will be held to higher standards for how this waste is treated.  

Civil service, public events and food service industries without plastics ?

By 2022, a ban on single-use plastics in civil service buildings, administrations, and at public events will be implemented in France. A ban of plastic confetti will also go into play, transforming the standard operations of many cultural events. Additionally, the food industry will have to adopt reusable tableware for sit-in restaurants, fast food chains included, and the catering industry will be required to have reusable crockery for on-site catering events. Surfrider Europe sees this as an encouraging victory given the lack of mandatory reusable packaging.

No more single-use plastics by 2040, but how ?

Plastic waste is everywhere and too often ends up in the environment. To reduce this, the new legislation foresees a ban of all single-use plastics by 2024. A late, but strong legislation facing the environmental urgency, as we estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastics than fish (in weight) in the ocean. Thus, the government, foresees the implementation of a 5-year “national plastics reduction strategy” to define the “3R's”: reduce, reuse and recycle. At the moment, however, this law offers a direction, without necessarily providing the roadmap to effectively implement these endeavors.

A huge step for bulk, a small step for plastic bottle reduction

A significiant highlight in this legislation is the support for bulk purchasing. Each consumer now has the right to be served using their own container, as long as it is clean and adapted to the nature of the product being purchased. This inclusion solidifies, in concrete terms, the support for bulk food products bought and sold without individual packaging. 

To reduce public dependency on plastic bottles, drinking water fountains in public places, including schools, will become obligatory, and restaurants will be compelled to offer free still water to their clients. However, as no consensus was found on refundable bottles, the public will have to wait until 2023 before a system mixing recyclability and reusability of plastic and glass bottles is established, dependent on evaluation results.

Prevent microplastic pollution: it’s possible !

Bad Cosmetics campaign

A positive outcome stemming from this law resides in the adoption of preventive actions against invisible pollution: microplastics. Following Surfrider Europe’s requests, the government has confirmed it is willing to efficiently decrease this pollution by enlarging measures against industrial plastic granules (with mandatory prevention measures by 2022), better manage textile microfiber plastics (with the obligation by 2025 to equip all washing machines with dedicated filters), and ban deliberately added microplastics (restraining gradually their integration starting in 2024)

This law brings a clear direction regarding the fight against plastic pollution at the French national level. Surfrider will keep advocating, with your support, for political decision makers and companies to adopt concrete and efficient measures in order to close the door to plastic pollution. 

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