Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Compostable Cutlery


France is working towards a goal known as Energy Transition for Green Growth, part of France's contribution to keeping the lid on climate change. There has been a flurry of legislation to support the aim of becoming a more sustainable society. It is being orchestrated by Ségolène Royale, the Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy. One change will be the phasing out of plastic cutlery and crockery.

New products are already appearing on the shelves and by 2020 all disposable cutlery and crockery must be compostable and made from biologically sourced materials. 

Plastic spoons and cardboard side plates.

The idea hasn't met with universal support though. The manufacturers of conventional disposable crockery and cutlery argue that France can't introduce this sort of legislation unilaterally because it interferes with free trade in the EU zone. The French law is being challenged by the manufacturers, but there is always the possibility that other European countries will follow the French lead, and there are manufacturers who have taken the new rules on board.  It is now quite easy to buy compostable crockery at least.

Apart from the legal aspects, some concern has been expressed that one of the unintended consequences will be that consumers will believe they can leave the biodegradable crockery and cutlery behind in the countryside where it will become litter and attract vermin.
The rabbit and chicken merchant at the market has switched to paper bags.

Also banned, with effect from the first of January this year, are the type of flimsy plastic bags of the sort you pull of a roll in the supermarket for fruit and vegetables, as well as those for meat and fish, and the 'single use' type with handles that you used to get to carry your groceries. Plastic bags are still available, but many retailers and market stalls have gone over to paper bags. The new plastic bags cost a few centimes and are sturdier so as to encourage reuse. The French have been in the habit of using 80 plastic bags of this type per person per year. To get an idea of how this compares with the best and the worst, the Danes and the Finns use four bags a year, the Poles 400. Average use for a plastic bag is 20 minutes and the old style ones take 400 years to degrade in landfill. About 17 billion plastic bags are used every year in France and about half end up discarded in the natural environment. 

6 comments:

  1. We take our own shopping bags for checkout purposes, but I'm not sure how we'd manage without the flimsy ones for veggies, etc. What are you now using instead?
    Our supermarket will accept old plastic bags for recycling, but the official recycling center will no longer do so. Says no one wants to be bothered dealing with them. I have to wonder if the market is just taking them out of the bin and throwing them away!

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    1. Plastic bags are not entirely banned, so the supermarkets have switched to bags that meet the new requirements (fully biodegradable, not so flimsy so as to encourage reuse, etc). They are also offering paper bags in the fruit and veg section.

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  2. Susan

    Just to let you know that, last evening, on the Journal de 20 heures from France 2 they had a segment on Camembert : "de Normandie" and the "Fabriqué en Normandie". Thought of you whilst I was watching it :-)

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    1. :-) I didn't see it, but did you come away with the impression it is mountain and molehill stuff? Camembert has always been an industrial product, and if anything, the farmhouse stuff is the 'inauthentic'.

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    2. I believe that we have become a 'protectionist" society once again when global trade and open free market are back on the drawing board

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  3. One trip to the veg merchant here and I come out with about six plastic bags....the stands on the feria likewise...
    Let no one tell you Costa Rica is eco friendly!

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