October 20, 2021

The French government has announced that it is to ban the use of plastic packaging for many fruits and vegetables from January 2022, in a bid to reduce waste, and part of a plan to eliminate it by 2040.

Plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kg will be banned, but the Government says the law will be applied gradually up until June 30, 2022, so manufacturers have time to implement alternative packaging solutions. According to the French Government, a tolerance period of six months for the disposal of packaging stocks will also be allowed.

Around 30 fruits and vegetables will be affected, including leeks, aubergines and round tomatoes as well as apples, bananas and oranges.

However, some fruit and vegetables will be exempt from the new law. Raspberries, strawberries, currants and blueberries, as well as ripe fruits picked at maturity, are all at risk of deterioration if sold in bulk so will continue to be allowed to be sold in plastic. Products including lentils and soybeans will also be exempt.

When the next stages of the plastic ban come into effect, consumers will be encouraged to bring reusable containers into retail stores to purchase items, as long as the container is clean and suitable for the products purchased.

It is estimated that 37% of fruit and vegetables are sold with packaging and France expects that the measure will prevent more than one billion useless plastic packaging items per year.

This latest ban is part of France’s anti-waste law which came into effect in early 2020. This is the second stage of the plastics ban, with the first stage being a ban on the sale of disposable tableware, including glasses, cups, and plates, and cotton swabs in batches.

In 2021, the French government expanded this law by banning plastic straws, disposable cutlery, stirrers, lids for takeaway beverage cups, polystyrene boxes, and plastic confetti.

Other upcoming measures in 2022 will include the implementation of a rule meaning that public spaces must provide water fountains to reduce the use of plastic bottles. In addition, non-biodegradable plastic tea and herbal tea bags being removed from supermarket shelves, press and publicity publications will have to be shipped without plastic wrapping, and fast-food restaurants will no longer be allowed to offer free plastic toys.

From January 2023, France will also ban throwaway crockery in fast-food restaurants for meals consumed on-site.

It is hoped the law will create a circular economy and that plastic waste will be entirely phased out in the country, by 2040.

The French Government’s Environment Ministry said in a statement: “We use an outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives. The circular economy law aims at cutting back the use of throwaway plastic and boost its substitution by other materials or reusable and recyclable packaging.”

There has been some push back from those involved in the industry however, with the French Fruit Seller’s federation president Francois Roch commenting that switching to cardboard will be difficult in such a short time. She added that selling loose produce is complicated as many customers touch the fruit and people do not want their fruit to be touched by other customers.

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