France accelerates transition to circular economy with new ban on plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables

FRANCE – The ministry of environment in France has announced a ban on plastic packaging for an extensive list of fruits and vegetables from January 2022 in a bid to cut packaging consumption, particularly the use of single-use plastic. 

The ban will affect around 30 fruits and vegetables which include courgettes, aubergines and cucumbers, as well as apples, oranges and pears.  

The French ministry of environment estimates that 37% of fruits and vegetables are sold in packaging, mostly single-use plastics which end up in landfills. 

With the new ban, the ministry expects to assist in eliminating more than 1 billion unnecessary plastic packaging items every year. 

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“We use an outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives. 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,” the ministry said in a statement, cited by Reuters. 

A limited number of delicate fruits and vegetables – such as peaches, apricots and red fruits – can still be sold with plastic packaging for the time being, but by the end of June 2026 all varieties will be subject to the ban. 

Building a circular economy

The ban is part of efforts to implement an anti-waste law – adopted last year – that aims to support France’s transition to a circular economy. 

Apart from limiting single-plastic use, the law also introduced a large number of measures, some of which are a world first, to shape the transition to a circular economy.  

The law establishes some concrete goals, such as a 15% decrease in household trash per inhabitant by 2030 and a 5% decrease in waste from economic activity.  

The law also sets the goal of recycling 100% of plastics by 2025, and the end of single-use plastic packaging by 2040.    

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Several common items have been banned under the anti-waste law including disposable straws and silverware, and polystyrene foam boxes for fast-food restaurants.  

In 2022, selling fruits and vegetables in plastic packaging for portions under 1.5 kilograms will also be illegal, and buildings open to the public will be required to have water fountains.  

In 2023, fast-food restaurants will no longer be allowed to use disposable plates and cups for on-premise consumption of food and beverages.  

The new law also aims to improve the collection of recyclable plastics, including by expanding refund systems. 

Under the anti-waste law, companies will not be allowed to destroy unsold non-food products. Rather than landfill or incinerate unsold goods, companies will now have to reuse, donate or recycle their unsold products. 

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