In a decisive measure to significantly cut plastic waste, the French Government announced on Monday that plastic packaging will be banned for most fruit and vegetables from 1 January 2022.
Plastic packaging is ubiquitous in almost any European supermarket and it can be difficult to buy products that aren’t wrapped in plastic cellophane. But France has now enacted the next step of a law against waste that will see plastic packaging banned from some 30 products.
In practice, this will apply to the majority of fruit and vegetables that are bought throughout the year, with a few exceptions being made for products that are more fragile – such as red berries – or products that would degrade too quickly to be sold loose – such as grains that have already sprouted. Likewise, any produce that has been peeled or cut can also still be sold in plastic packaging.
This is the latest phase of a much wider law for a circular economy was launched in July 2019 and has already put an end to single use plastics in France, as well as dealing with waste from other products. Since 2020, items such as plastic straws, disposable cutlery, and Styrofoam containers have already been banned with stricter laws to be introduced in the coming years. The French Government has set the long-term aim of having no disposable plastic by 2040.
In a statement, the Environment Ministry explained how the law aims to curb the “outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives” by promoting the “substitution of plastic by other materials or reusable and recyclable packaging.”
An estimated 37% of fruit and vegetables are currently sold with plastic packaging in France; by 2026, all fruit and vegetables – regardless of whether it has been cut, peeled or processed – will be sold without plastic packaging.
16% of the world’s plastic is produced in Europe (2019) and the sector provides over 30,000 jobs in Belgium with a turnover in 2018 of €14.2 billion, according to market analysis consultancy Agoria.
According to Eurostat, plastic waste per person residing in the EU has been gradually increasing over the past decade, with an average of over 33kg plastic waste per capita being produced in 2018. In Belgium, over 200,000 tonnes of consumer plastic waste was sent to recycling in Belgium.