French carrier bag ban to boost bio-based products

French carrier bag ban to boost bio-based products
A ban on single-use plastic bags in France will create around 6,000 jobs in the country’s bio-based industries, says Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal.

The French Ministry of Ecology last week (30 March) published a decree on the complete banning of single-use plastic bags from tills from 1 July this year, with similar plastic bags for fruit, vegetables, fish and delicatessen goods to be banned from 1 January 2017.

Single-use plastic bags are defined as those thinner than 50 microns (0.05 millimetres). Only compostable bags containing an increasing proportion of renewable raw materials will be excluded from the ban. From 1 January 2017, bags containing 30 per cent renewable raw materials will be allowed. This will increase to 50 per cent in 2020 and 60 per cent in 2025.

The ban was included in the Energy Transition for Green growth bill, which also initially carried laws against supermarkets destroying of food waste, and was originally scheduled to come into practice on at the beginning of this year. The ban was delayed until July, however, to give shopkeepers and suppliers a chance to use up their stock of plastic bags.

In a statement following the decree, the Ministry of Ecology focused on the environmental benefits of removing non-biodegradable plastic bags from the market, stating that they are used for a few minutes but take several hundred years to degrade and are ingested by marine animals and birds. 

The ministry highlighted that 75 per cent of waste dumped at sea is plastic and used the case of sea turtles, which mistake plastic bags for jellyfish as an example of its destructive effect. Royale said that 86 per cent of marine turtles are affected by this phenomenon. In addition, in the North Sea, 94 per cent of the stomachs of birds contain plastic. In all, there are more than 260 species that are impacted by plastic bags.

Opportunity for bio-based industry

The French bioplastics association Club Bio-plastiques has noted the opportunity that the ban presents for the country’s green economy, stating that it will enable the development of an innovation chain and offer a lasting solution to the problem of persistent thin plastics in the environment.

A statement released by the organisation said: ‘This decree opens concrete prospects that enable the sector to invest in production tools to meet future demand. The implementation of this long-awaited law will ensure the sustainability of development of the bioplastics industry and will create several thousand jobs. It will ensure France has a future position as leader of the plant-based biodegradable plastics sector.’

The French government predicts that the development of new bio-based plastic will enable the creation of about 6,000 jobs in the country, including jobs in research and development, growing plants as a basis for raw materials, production of novel resins composed of plant material and plants manufacturing bio-based products.

Today, 2.6 billion disposable bags are produced in France, and about 17 billion single-use bags are consumed. Around 90 per cent on the single-use plastic bags currently used in France are imported from Asia. Biodegradable plastics excluded from the ban will start to decompose at around 26°C, meaning that deliveries of bags meeting the requirements would not survive transport from Asia to France. This is likely to put more of an onus on domestic producers to supply carrier bags.

Christophe Doukhi de Boissoudy, Director of bioplastics producer Novamont France and President of Club Bio-plastiques, said: “I welcome, on behalf of the Club Bio-plastiques, the publication of the implementation decree of the Energy Transition law and the implementation of the measure on disposable shopping bags that have been awaited for a long time. Compostable bags contribute effectively to the optimisation of the separate collection of organic waste, also promoted by the law.”