France’s New Years Day brings into force a law banning plastic packaging of large quantities of fruits and vegetables. This is to end what the government calls the aberration of overwrapped carrots and apples. Excited shoppers and environmental activists are urging other countries to follow their lead.
Emmanuel Macron described the ban on plastic packaging in fresh produce as a real revolution, and stated that France was taking the lead with its law to gradually phase-out single-use plastics by 2040.
From 2023, Spain will ban plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables. International campaigners have long argued that plastic packaging causes environmental damage and pollution at sea.
France will ban supermarkets from selling cucumbers wrapped up in plastic. Plastic wrapping will be prohibited for 30 types of fruits and vegetables, including bananas.
As well as packs over 1.5kg, chopped or processed fruits will be exempt. Some varieties, such as cherry tomatoes and soft fruits like raspberries and blueberries will be allowed to grow longer to allow producers to find alternative packaging. However, plastic packaging will gradually be phased out for all fruits and vegetables by 2026.
The government estimates that 37% of French fruit and vegetable sales will be wrapped in plastic packaging by 2021. This ban will reduce plastic packaging by more than 1bn per year. The environment ministry stated that there must be a limit on single-use plastics in our daily lives.
Plastic layers on fruits and vegetables have made it difficult for consumers in France as well as in neighboring countries. Nearly three quarters (75%) of British people have felt anxious, frustrated, or hopeless about the amount plastic in their shopping. According to a survey, 59% of Brits think supermarkets and brand are not doing enough for consumers to have reusable, refillable, and packaging-free products. Friends of the Earth commissioned a pollCity to Sea in June
An Ifop PollThe World Wildlife Fund (WWF), France, found that 85% of people supported banning single-use plastic packaging and products. More than 2,000,000 people have signed a petition by WWF calling on the world governments to address the plastics pollution crisis. Shoppers vented their disgust on social media about what they considered absurd wrappings, such as coconuts wrapped in several layers of plastic or single bananas wrapped in plastic bags.
Mora Tourneur is an advocacy manager at Zero Waste France. She said that the French law was a wise and appropriate move. However, she did question what she called the surprising. List of exempt vegetables and fruitsThere will be a longer transition period of at least one year before plastic-free. These include brussels and green beans, spring onions, green peppers, broccoli, peaches, and mushrooms. Some of these items are already sold in many shops. Tourneur stated that the ban is fair and appropriate. It is a shame to give more time to certain fruits and vegetables. There is a climate emergency. The urgency of this issue is well known.
WWF France, which has been campaigning on plastic pollution’s impact on biodiversity and marine life across the Mediterranean and oceans, said that the law was a positive step in the right directions. However, it reminded governments that there was still much work to be done to eliminate plastics pollution.
Pierre Cannet, the organization’s director of advocacy, stated that the law sends a positive message and places plastics at the center of the national discussion. He added that we must remain humble and alert by acknowledging that there is still much work to be done. We are still far from an economy that is completely plastic-free and all the steps required to eliminate plastic pollution.
Camilla Zerr, a plastics advocate at Friends of the Earth in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, said that she thought it was a very positive approach and would urge the UK not to follow suit.
She explained that in the UK, fruit such as bananas and apples wrapped in plastic were sometimes less expensive than those sold loose. This was very problematic.
Zerr added: It’s interesting to note that while the major supermarkets sell fruit and veggies wrapped in plastic, corner stores sell a lot of fruit and vegetables loose, which proves that it is possible for people to live without plastic.