France passed a bill banning the use of conventional plastic in disposables such as cups, cutlery, and dishware. Manufacturing companies say this is a violation of EU law and vow to fight it out in court.
BUSINESS VS ENVIRONMENT
All conventional plastic dishes and cutlery will be banned in France starting 2020. As part of the Energy Transition for Green Growth initiative, France has passed a law prohibiting the use of plastic plates, cups, spoons, and forks (sporks, obviously included).
The move hopes to minimize the environmental impact of the production and use of disposables. The bill, which was passed in the summer of 2015, requires that all disposable utensils, cups, and plates be made of plant-based, compostable materials instead of conventional petroleum-based plastic.
The shift has packaging manufacturers retaliating: Brussels-based European packaging manufacturers' organization, Pack2Go Europe, is threatening to take the matter into court should the European commission allow France to proceed with the ban.
"We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law," says Pack2Go secretary general Eamonn Bates.
"France is flying in the face of the EU's free movement of goods rules and this action is totally out of proportion to the environmental risk that disposable plastics tableware represents in reality," says Pack2Go president Mike Turner.
JUST A PUBLICITY STUNT?
Our environmental footprint is undeniable: we have actually coined a term to refer to the era wherein human activity has become the dominant driver in the Earth's environmental state—anthropocene.
Critics argue that there is insufficient proof of the environmental benefits of using biologically sourced materials for disposables, and are claiming that this is nothing but a publicity stunt. They also claim that using plant-based plastics will backfire when people automatically assume they will readily decompose, and leave their disposables in the wrong places. Biologically sourced materials, while biodegradable, have certain conditions for proper disposal.
However, while sustainable disposables are not perfect, statistical figures are not helping the case for conventional plastics.
The Local says France throws out 4.73 billion plastic cups every year and only 1% is recycled. In the US, Los Angeles alone pollutes the Pacific ocean with 10 metric tons of plastic fragments every day, according to EcoWatch. Plastic accounts for 10% of the total waste we generate, and it takes 500-1,000 years for the substance to degrade. Currently, they estimate that 40% of the world's ocean surfaces is not even ocean anymore, but plastic debris.
Although this ban is obviously not enough to make a monumental difference, it is a step forward. The main thing rocking the boat for manufacturing companies? This movement might extend to other countries.