France wants to phase out disposable plastics by 2040

The French Parliament's lower chamber late Thursday passed a law to ban all single-use plastic products and packaging after 2040 | Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

France wants to phase out disposable plastics by 2040

Environmentalists complain that the new law’s deadline is too far in the future.

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The French Parliament’s lower chamber late Thursday passed a law to ban all single-use plastic products and packaging after 2040, as well as a raft of measures to ramp up reuse and recycling.

Environmental advocates were unimpressed.

Backpedaling on key measures to cut plastic waste left some skeptical that the government was serious about dealing with the waste problem, and blurred the message on its green push.

Environmentalists complained that the 2040 deadline, plus targets for ending the use of plastic cups, plates, cutlery and straws starting in 2021 — instead of 2020 as originally planned — are too slow.

Green MP David Cormand tweeted earlier this month that plastic producers “will continue business as usual to produce and use plastics for another generation.”

The government congratulated itself on the plan, with Environment Minister Brune Poirson tweeting: “This is a demanding law which is crucial for delivering the ecological transition.”

French lawmakers from the Parliament’s two chambers are expected to iron out the final version of the law in January.

The legislation, adopted after 50 hours of debate, is a follow-up to last year’s revision of the EU Waste Framework Directive, and outlines targets for waste reduction, collection and recycling, and aims to foster the circularity of the economy by encouraging reuse and repair practices.

It also makes France compliant with the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive adopted a year ago that banned a range of items — from cotton buds to balloon sticks, straws and plates — from 2021.

WWF France said that the text of the new law “is very disappointing.”

In an attempt to increase the rate of repaired products by 60 percent in the next five years, the law obliges producers to inform consumers about the repairability of electric and electronic products.

The law introduces new extended producers’ responsibility schemes — part of the “polluter pays principle” that is a key element of the EU’s circular economy action plan. These will now cover the construction, gardening and sports and leisure sectors, as well as toy manufacturers and the tobacco industry.

The new bill forbids retailers from throwing away unsold products.

One measure proved to be particularly controversial — the creation of a deposit-return scheme for plastic and glass bottles.

French mayors protested that localities would have to bear the extra costs of collecting plastic bottles, and the measure was stripped from the bill in the senate.

The final text of the law says municipalities that wish to include plastic bottles in the deposit-return scheme can do so if they wish, but mandatory inclusion of plastic bottles will happen in 2023 only if local governments are falling short of their collection targets.

Under the EU’s single-use plastics directive, member countries have to collect 77 percent of their plastic bottles by 2025 and 90 percent by 2029. In addition, by 2030, all new bottles will have to include 30 percent of recycled plastics, with an intermediate target of 25 percent by 2025.

Authors:
Louise Guillot 

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