Image for Fruit and veg unwrapped: France’s plastic packaging ban begins

Fruit and veg unwrapped: France’s plastic packaging ban begins

A law that bans plastic packaging on most fruit and vegetables came into effect in France on New Year’s Day

A law that bans plastic packaging on most fruit and vegetables came into effect in France on New Year’s Day

Pick up a cucumber, lemon or orange in a French supermarket or other shop from this week and it should be free from its customary plastic shroud. They are among the 30 varieties banned from being wrapped in plastic in the country from 1 January 2022.

An estimated 37 per cent of fruit and vegetable products in France were thought to be sold in plastic wrapping before the ban, and government officials say it could prevent a billion items of single use plastic from being used every year.

President Emmanuel Macron described the ban as “a real revolution” and said it showed the country’s commitment to phase out single use plastics by 2040. Spain will also introduce a ban on plastic packaging of fruit and vegetables from 2023. Environmental groups have urged other countries to follow suit.

Among the other products included are peppers, courgettes, aubergines, leeks, bananas, pears and kiwi fruits.

Packs that weigh more than 1.5kg will be exempt, as will chopped or processed fruit. Producers of some more vulnerable varieties, including cherry tomatoes, raspberries and blueberries, have been granted longer to find alternatives to plastic, but plastic packaging will be gradually phased out for all whole fruits and vegetables by 2026.

Representatives of WWF France said they welcomed the law as “a positive step in the right direction”, but reminded governments there was more work to be done to end plastics pollution, including on microplastics.

We need to stay humble and vigilant by saying there is still a lot to do. We’re still very far from an economy without plastic

Pierre Cannet, the organisation’s director of advocacy and campaigns, said the law sent a positive message and “puts plastics at the heart of the national debate”. Cannet added: “We need to stay humble and vigilant by saying there is still a lot to do. We’re still very far from an economy without plastic, and from all the steps needed to eradicate plastics pollution.”

Nearly three-quarters of British people have experienced “anxiety, frustration or hopelessness” at the amount of plastic that comes with their shopping. Some 59 per cent think supermarkets and brands are not doing enough to offer refillable, reusable or packaging-free products, according to a poll commissioned by Friends of the Earth and City to Sea in June 2021.

Image: Louis Hansel

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