A law banning plastic packaging for a large number of fruits and vegetables goes into effect in France on New Year’s Day, to end what the government has called the “aberration” of overwrapped carrots, apples and bananas, such as environmental activists and exasperated buyers urge other countries to do the same.
Emmanuel Macron called the ban on plastic packaging for fresh produce a “real revolution” and said France was taking the lead globally with its law to phase out all single-use plastics by 2040.
Spain will ban plastic packaging for fruits and vegetables from 2023. For years, international activists have said unnecessary plastic packaging causes environmental damage and pollution at sea.
From New Year’s Day, France will ban supermarkets and other businesses from selling cucumbers wrapped in plastic and peppers, zucchini, eggplants and leeks in plastic wrappers. A total of 30 types of fruits and vegetables will be banned from plastic packaging, including bananas, pears, lemons, oranges and kiwis.
Packages over 1.5 kg will be exempt, as will chopped or processed fruit. Some varieties, including cherry tomatoes or red fruits like raspberries and blueberries, will have more time for growers to find alternatives to plastic, but plastic packaging will be phased out for all whole fruits and vegetables from here. 2026.
With around 37% of fruits and vegetables sold packaged in plastic packaging in France in 2021, the government estimates that the ban will reduce more than one billion single-use plastic packaging items per year. The Environment Ministry said there must be restrictions on the “outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives.”
Fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic layers have infuriated consumers not only in France but in neighboring countries. Almost three-quarters of Britons have experienced “anxiety, frustration or despair” about the amount of plastic that comes with their purchases and 59% believe that supermarkets and brands are not doing enough to offer refillable, reusable or unpackaged products, according to a survey commissioned by Friends of the Earth and City to Sea in June.
An Ifop poll for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) France in 2019 found that 85% of people were in favor of banning single-use plastic products and packaging. More than 2 million people have signed a WWF petition calling on global governments to end the plastic pollution crisis. In angry social media posts, shoppers complained about what they saw as absurd packaging, like coconuts in multiple layers of plastic or isolated bananas in individual plastic bags.
Moïra Tourneur, head of advocacy at the NGO Zero Waste France, said the French law was a “good and appropriate” decision, even though she questioned what she called the “surprising” list of fruits and exempt vegetables given a longer transition time of at least another year before going without plastic. These include Brussels sprouts, spring onions, green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, peaches and apricots, some of which are already sold in bulk in many stores. Tourneur said: “The ban is fair and appropriate… Giving more time for certain fruits and vegetables is a bit of a shame. There is a climate emergency. People are aware of the need for urgent action on this issue. .
WWF France, which has campaigned on the impact of plastics on biodiversity and marine life in the Mediterranean and across the oceans, said it was important to welcome the law as “a positive step in the right direction” , while reminding governments that there was more work to be done. be done to end plastic pollution, including on microplastics.
Pierre Cannet, its director of advocacy and campaigns, said the law sends a positive message and “puts plastics at the heart of the national debate”. He added: “We must remain humble and vigilant in saying that there is still a long way to go. We are still very far from a plastic-free economy, and from all the necessary steps to eradicate plastic pollution.
Camilla Zerr, Friends of the Earth plastics activist for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said: “I think this is a very good approach and I strongly urge the UK United to do the same and not to fall behind. “
She said that in the UK fruits such as bananas or apples wrapped in plastic wrappers were sometimes cheaper than those sold in bulk, which was “very problematic”.
Zerr added: “It’s interesting that in the UK the main brands sell packaged fruit and veg, but in convenience stores you can find a lot of loose fruit and veg, which proves that it is. possible to do without plastic.