In a move that places France one step ahead of the rest of the world, from today (July 1), the distribution of plastic bags in French shops is prohibited. In order to fight waste and pollution, it is now compulsory to replace them with paper or fabric bags.
Thanks to a law on Energy Transition passed in August 2015, single-use plastic bags are now banned from French supermarkets as well as from bakeries, butcher shops and pharmacies.
This measure was scheduled to be applied on January 1, 2016, but was postponed by the government.
Starting today, a penalty will be levied from any shops not complying with this decree, which was submitted to the scrutiny of the European Commission and the "Conseil d'Etat" (part of the French Parliament), which assessed the legal risks of this measure regarding potential complaints from bag manufacturers.
This decree only applies to plastic bags thinner than 50 microns. An additional article will come into force on January 1, 2017 that will prohibit the distribution of all other disposable plastic bags (except biodegradable bags), including those supplied to pack fruit, vegetables or cheese. Twelve billion of these bags are used each year in France.
Time to go green
The end of the plastic bag is a boon for manufacturers of organically-sourced bags (made out of a mixture of plastic and corn or potato starch, that break down into water and CO2). The content of organically-sourced materials will gradually increase from 30% in 2017 to 40% in 2018, 50% in 2020 and finally to 60% in 2025.
Single-use plastic bags are already banned in several countries around the world including Italy, Haiti, Mauritania, Mali, Togo and Bangladesh.
As Le Monde reminds us:
"A plastic bag can last up to four centuries while its actual use often doesn’t exceed twenty minutes, between the moment it is given away by the shop and the moment the purchases are unpacked at home."
In France, nearly 1,000 single use plastic bags are distributed every second and 5 billion of them are given away at the till each year. And in the end, it is nature, the oceans and all their inhabitants that pay the price. Time the UK did something similar, isn't it?