France, the first country to ban single-use plastic cups

Within a few years, disposable plastic cups, plates and cutlery could be a thing of the past in France. In 2020, all plastic tableware sold in the country will have to be made from at least 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home. This proportion has to grow to 60% by 2025.

In the country host of the COP 21, 150 single-use cups are thrown away every second or 4.73 billion per year, according to ASEF, the French Association of Health and Environment. Stacked all together, the plastic cups would form a pyramid 25 times higher than the Tour Eiffel. Only 1% of them are recycled as they are composed of a mix of polypropylene and polystyrene, impossible to be recycled.

Approved on August 2016, the new law is part of the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, which aims to make France an exemplary nation in the fight against climate change.

The same legislation has banned the distribution of single-use plastic bags at the checkout of groceries stores, supermarkets, pharmacies and so on, regardless they are free or paid. The rule came into force in last July. In 2017, plastic bags used for fruits, veggies and fishes will also  be replaced by  bags made of paper or other compostable materials.

Before the ban on single-use plastic bags, 5 billion of them were distributed at French retailer’s checkout each year. Being used in average only 20 minutes, those items can last up to 400 years in the environment.

The idea behind the bans on single-use plastic is to promote a circular economy, reducing the environmental impacts related to the production and distribution of those items.

As plastic doesn’t biodegrade (it only breaks down in smaller particles), it can last hundreds of years in the nature, posing a myriad of problems to wildlife, being particularly harmful to the oceans. Marine plastic pollution is already a global problem. Each year 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. Moreover, manufacturing plastic items consumes millions of barrels of oil per year, being an important driver of climate change.

Our oceans and climate say merci for those initiatives.

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