Ségolène Royal, minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, is behind the legislation which was enacted in August 2015, just two-and-a-half months before the COP21 Climate Change conference in Paris. The socialist government hopes it will transform France into a global leader in energy diversification and environmentally friendly practises.
This new ban was first proposed by the Europe Ecologie-Greens Party, who are acutely aware of France’s contribution to the global waste crisis. According to the French Association of Health and Environment, ASEF, in 2015 the French used 17 billion plastic bags and discarded four-and-three-quarter billion plastic cups – that’s 150 every second – and only one per cent of these were recycled. This undoubtedly contributed to the eight million tons of plastic that ended up in the world’s oceans as it does every year, an amount due to double in the next two decades.
Ecologists and conservation groups wanted the ban to be introduced next year, but Royal pushed this back given the economic impact a sudden change will have on low-income families more dependent on disposable tableware. The three-year window should also give manufacturers time to innovate and adjust their practises.
Nevertheless, the industrial opposition has been fast and firm. ‘We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law [on the free movement of goods]. If they don’t, we will,’ Eamonn Bates of Pack2Go Europe, an organization in Brussels representing the European packaging industry, told The Associated Press.
The war on plastics began in 2002 when Ireland introduced a 17 cent shopping bag fee which cut usage by 96 per cent and Bangladesh banned them outright after they blocked drainage systems during flooding. Numerous countries and U.S. states have followed suit and France is just the latest to do so. However, this next battle against disposable tableware puts France on the frontline of a global fight to reduce our collective environmental impact.