France aims to ban plastic cups, plates and cutlery

But the proposed ban is not without controversy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

plastic-glassesFrance's latest efforts to reduce pollution, especially in the form of plastic waste, will also affect picnickers in parks and countryside. Under this controversial new ban, they won't be able to use, nay even buy, plastic goblets from which to drink their wine, or plastic knives with which to make sandwiches.

Coffee machines will no longer cough out plastic cups, as part of the country's plans to be more environmentally friendly, thus making live in the office a little more different too.

The new measure, which took effect August 2016, gives producers until 2020 to ensure that all disposable dishes sold in France are made of biologically sourced materials and can be composted. It follows a ban on plastic bags, in place since July.

While several other countries and some U.S. states have also banned plastic bags, France appears to be the first country to introduce a blanket ban on plastic dishware. It comes after Paris hosted a landmark conference last year on fighting global warming, and as the Socialist government tries to push France toward the forefront of environmental progress.

While ecologists' organizations lauded the French law and hope it sets an example for other countries, opponents argue that product bans hurt consumers, and that the French measures violate European Union rules on free movement of goods.

Worried that the French ban could extend to other countries, Pack2Go Europe, a Brussels-based organization representing European packaging manufacturers, says it will keep fighting it.

Pack2Go Europe's secretary general Eamonn Bates is reported to have said that the organization is urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law and that if European Commission won't then they, the organization, will. This is exactly how TTIP will pan out if it gets the go-ahead. Corporations and and trade bodies will sue governments if actions infringe on their bottom line.

The French government says that the measures will ban sales of single-use plastic cups, plates and glasses unless they are made of bio-sourced materials that can be composted in a domestic composting unit.

The problem and fact is, and that is where Eamonn Bates is entirely correct, when he says that there is no proof that bio-sourced disposable cutlery is more environmentally beneficial, and that no products made from bio-sourced plastics will degrade in a domestic composting unit.

No so-called bio-degradable plastic that is so far in existence can be composted in a domestic composting unit and if the French government is claiming that then they are, in fact, lying.

This claim about biodegradability may actually make people believe that there is nothing wrong with simply leaving plates, knives, forks, spoons, etc., in the countryside (as the stuff will rot away). Well, it is not that simple and it won't just rot away. It could actually make the litter problem worse rather than tackle it.

We are now seeing the people, instead of using simple disposable cups, flatware and such, bring reusable plastic cups and such, and metal cutlery, but then leave both behind, or toss them into the littler bins. Aside from being a waste of their own money and resources somewhere along the line they seem to not have completely understood the word reusable.

I have, over the last year or three, found enough of such silverware, that is to say knives, forks and spoons, that I could equip a small cafe with them. They might not all match but there would be enough sets for sure. As said, somewhere along the line many people have lost the plot.

© 2016