France Is World's First Nation to Ban Plasticware

No more plastic plates, cups, utensils unless they're biodegradable
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2016 1:48 PM CDT
France Is World's First Nation to Ban Plasticware
No more of these in France soon.   (Flickr)

Visit Paris and you'll spot people picnicking near the Eiffel Tower—but don't be surprised if they're soon scarfing down their jambon croissants off of napkins or real dishware. That's because a measure passed last month has made France the first country to ban single-use plastic plates, cups, and utensils, the AP reports. The move comes after a plastic-bag ban issued in July, per the Washington Post. Manufacturers have until 2020 to get up to speed, meaning these throwaway items will have to be made of biologically sourced materials that can be tossed in the compost pile. The goal: to get rid of plastic that doesn't degrade quickly, as well as cut down on the energy needed to process these items (and the waste that's a byproduct). Plastic is also a hazard to wildlife: Because it doesn't disintegrate but merely breaks down into tinier pieces, animals and birds can scoop it up, thinking it's food.

But while this move is being heralded by environmental advocates, some say it's violating EU laws that allow for the free movement of products. "We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law," Eamonn Bates, the secretary general of a Euro packaging manufacturers group, tells the AP. Some, including France's ecological minister, say it could also hurt poor families that often use plastic dishware, and the Australian, via Science Alert, says some manufacturers claim it's either too expensive or they're not equipped to go biodegradable. And Bates argues biodegradable-only products could actually lead to more litter because people will think it's "OK to leave this packaging behind in the countryside after use"—an assertion that Science Alert calls a "bit of a stretch." (Can this bacteria devour plastic trash?)

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