French plastic packaging ban for fruit and veg begins

Law bans sale of carrots, bananas and other items in plastic as environment groups urge other countries to follow

A law banning plastic packaging for large numbers of fruits and vegetables comes into force in France on New Year’s Day, to end what the government has called the “aberration” of overwrapped carrots, apples and bananas, as environmental campaigners and exasperated shoppers urge other countries to do the same.

Emmanuel Macron has called the ban on plastic packaging of fresh produce “a real revolution” and said France was taking the lead globally with its law to gradually phase out all single-use plastics by 2040.

Spain will introduce a ban on plastic packaging of fruit and vegetables from 2023. For years, international campaigners have said unnecessary plastic packaging is causing environmental damage and pollution at sea.

From New Year’s Day, France will ban supermarkets and other shops from selling cucumbers wrapped in plastic, and peppers, courgettes, aubergines and leeks in plastic packaging. A total of 30 types of fruit and vegetables will be banned from having any plastic wrapping, including bananas, pears, lemons, oranges and kiwis.

Packs over 1.5kg will be exempt, as will chopped or processed fruit. Some varieties, including cherry tomatoes or soft fruits such as raspberries and blueberries, will be given longer for producers to find alternatives to plastic, but plastic packaging will be gradually phased out for all whole fruits and vegetables by 2026.

With an estimated 37per centof fruit and vegetables sold wrapped in plastic packaging in France in 2021, the government believes the ban will cut more than 1 billion items of single-use plastic packaging a year. The environment ministry said there must be curbs on the “outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives”.

Fruit and vegetables wrapped in layers of plastic have exasperated consumers not only in France but neighbouring countries. Nearly three-quarters of British people have experienced “anxiety, frustration or hopelessness” at the amount of plastic that comes with their shopping and 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.

An Ifop poll for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) France in 2019 found that 85 per cent of people were in favour of banning single-use plastic products and packaging. More than 2 million people have signed a WWF petition calling on world governments to stop the plastics pollution crisis. In angry posts on social media, shoppers have complained of what they deemed absurd wrapping such as coconuts in several layers of plastic or single bananas in individual plastic bags.

WWF France, which has campaigned on the impact of plastics on biodiversity and marine life in the Mediterranean and across oceans, said it was important to welcome the law as “a positive step in the right direction”, while reminding governments there was more work to be done to end plastics pollution, including on microplastics. – Guardian Service