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.