France bans plastic packaging of fruit and vegetables

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Some 30 fruit and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kg may no longer be sold in plastic bags in France. The ban came into force on Saturday, 1st of January 2022, to the dismay of the sector's packaging industry.

The packaging ban is part of a multi-year programme to phase out plastic in France, where plastic straws, cups and cutlery, as well as styrofoam takeaway boxes were banned in 2020.

The ban on single-use plastic packaging is part of the implementation of a measure included in the text of the 'anti-waste law' passed in early 2020.

And the October 8, 2021 decree specifies the ban on the sale of 'unprocessed fresh fruit and vegetables under 1.5 kilos' packaged in plastic by any retailer.

The full legislation will not be applied until 2026, allowing firms to adapt. Retailers have also been granted six months to use up existing plastic packaging stocks.

Protecting exports?

"We were never consulted," complained Laurent Grandin, head of the fruit and vegetable sector's Interfel association.

He told French news agency AFP that the costs were "insurmountable" for small companies who would have to keep using plastic to protect exports, notably to Britain, a major client for apples.

Pomanjou produces up to 40,000 tonnes of apples annually in the Loire valley and has, over the last three years, introduced 100 percent cardboard packing.

However packing costs have as a result soared 20 to 30 percent, said company representative Arnaud de Puineuf.

Supermarket group Casino said it will now sell tomatoes in cardboard packaging and provide customers with paper or cellulose bags.

Ban on recycled plastics

The packaging companies say the 8th of October decree caught them by surprise, particularly the ban on recycled plastics.

"We have client firms...who will have to stop their fruit and vegetable packing activity, even though they have been working on alternatives using less plastic or recycled plastic for several years," a statement from the Elipso association that represents manufacturers, reads.

Elipso and Polyvia, a union covering 3,500 firms making packaging, have appealed to France's State Council, which has jurisdiction over administrative disputes, against what they say is a distortion of European markets as the ban applies solely to France.

Cardboard manufacturers

But Armand Chaigne, director of industrial markets at packaging firm DS Smith, sees the benefits, notably for cardboard manufacturers.

"It is estimated that in Europe, out of the eight million tonnes of plastic produced per year for single-use packaging, 1.5 million tonnes could already be removed," he said.

"That represents about 70 billion units of single-use plastic packaging", or "about seven billion euros of additional turnover potential for cardboard."

(with wires)

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