France has become the first country to enact a blanket ban on all single-use plastic dishware.
Under a new law which went into effect last month, the country gives manufacturers until 2020 to ensure that all of their disposable cups, plates and utensils are made of environmentally friendly products and can be composted at home, according to France’s the Local.
The ban may make it harder for some parents throwing birthday parties or couples enjoying picnics, but it has been celebrated by many in France and around the world.
However, CBS News reports that the ban has angered some in France, particularly manufacturers of plastic ware. Pack2Go Europe, a Brussels-based organization representing European packaging manufacturers, says it will keep fighting the groundbreaking ban.
“We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law,” Pack2Go Europe secretary general Eamonn Bates told the Associated Press. “If they don’t, we will.”
The plastic ban is part of France’s sweeping “Energy Transition for Green Growth Act” that was passed during the summer of 2015.
CNN reports that the law will require all disposable tableware be made from 50 percent biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020. By January of 2025, that number will rise to 60 percent.
The French Association of Health and Environment reports that 150 single-use cups are thrown away every second in France. Only about 1 percent are recycled, in part because they are often made of a mixture of polypropylene and polystyrene that cannot be recycled.
Over 8 million tons of plastic wound up in our oceans in the year 2010 alone, according to scientists at the American Association for the Advances of Sciences. They warn that the number could increase tenfold in the next decade unless countries step up their waste management practices greatly.
France, which hosted last year’s COP21 Climate Change conference in Paris, hopes to become a world leader in taking action to combat climate change and enacting environmentally friendly legislation and energy solutions. The UK’s Independent reports that French lawmakers say the idea behind the ban on plastic products is to promote a “circular economy” of waste disposal, “from product design to recycling.”
French President François Hollande says that the ban is part of a larger push intended to make France “an exemplary nation regarding reducing greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying its energy model and increasing the deployment of renewable energy sources.”
Plastic products are harmful to the environment and wildlife, in addition to posing health risks. One reason for this is that plastic does not biodegrade and only breaks into smaller pieces. These pieces are often mistaken for food by wildlife, especially in oceans. Also, millions of barrels of oil are used every year manufacturing plastic goods, which contributes to climate change.
Proponents of the ban also point out that there are health risks linked to drinking out of plastic cups and eating off plastic dishes. These health risks tend to be higher when the food or drinks are hot, such as drinking hot coffee from plastic cups or eating hot foods from plastic bowls or plates.
Supporters wanted the ban to take effect in 2017, but Ségolène Royal, the French environment minister, was worried that the ban could be seen as “anti-social” in socialist France because low-income families often use plastic plates and utensils. As a compromise, the ban won’t take effect until 2020. This should allow manufacturers more time to transition to environmentally friendly products and consumers in France plenty of time to prepare for the change.
The ban on plastic dishes follows a similar ban that took effect in France this July, which bans all plastic bags in grocery stores and markets.
However, while many other countries, states, and cities around the world have banned plastic bags, France is the first to ban plastic single-use dishes.
France seems to be doing well with its goal of leading the way in positive changes for the environment.
Supporters in the United States are now calling for lawmakers to follow France’s lead and step up their commitment to combat plastic, waste and climate change.