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France to ban plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables

Part of its anti-waste law aimed at creating a circular economy with single-use plastic phased out by 2040, the government will enforce the measure at the start of next year.

Given the current state of our planet, it’s somewhat surprising that browsing the aisles of most local grocery stores will still present you with an array of neatly packaged produce that, more often than not, simply doesn’t need it.

While examples of this don’t tend to be quite as baffling as when Morrisons was selling single bananas in un-recyclable polyester casings, supermarkets in the UK alone continue to generate around 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually.

That’s despite a recent increase in the charge for carrier bags intended to encourage customers to bring their own – an initiative that’s successfully reduced the average amount used per household to four from 140 since its implementation in 2015.

One thing is clear. To stop our consumption habits wreaking even more havoc on the Earth than they already have, we need to start aiming higher.

Fortunately, the French government – which banned plastic straws, cups, cutlery, and Styrofoam takeaway boxes in early 2021 –  is doing just that.

Part of its anti-waste law targeted towards creating a circular economy with single-use plastic a distant memory by 2040, it’s set to ban plastic packaging for almost all fruit and veg as of January 2022. When this takes effect, it’s expected the measure will prevent over one billion uselessly packaged items from hitting the shelves every year.

‘We use an outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives,’ said the environment ministry. ‘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.’

Of course, this isn’t without its complications. Serving a range of important purposes, plastic packaging helps protect food from damage, last longer, and appear more visually appealing to shoppers. Not to mention that, post-pandemic, we’re certainly less drawn to loose items that may or may not have been handled by someone else.

It’s for this reason that the government’s published list of fruit and veg – a starting point it’s seeking to develop in subsequent months – includes potatoes, onions, squash, carrots, and parsnips (among others), all products you’ll be washing or peeling anyway.

Cut fruits and a limited number of delicate vegetables can still be sold with plastic packaging for now, but that’ll be phased out by 2026 at the latest in favour of ‘alternative solutions.’

The hope is that it will eventually pave the way for eco-friendlier shopping habits, whereby customers bring reusable containers to fill with whatever they choose, avoiding the accumulation of disposable products throughout the day and the resources needed to create them. This is because most of the items we use already produce a lot of invisible waste, pollution, and emissions before they even arrive in our hands.

On that note, why not check out our ultimate guide on how to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle?


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