France to reduce plastic consumption

France is preparing for the Paris conference now less than 60 days away. The French Government formally notified last week the European Commission (as required under the EU Packaging Directive) in presenting a draft Decree restricting the sale of plastic bags on its Territory.

The document is the first step toward implementation of Article 75 of Law 2015–992 dated 17 August 2015 on the “Energetic Transition toward growth of the Green sector “ approved by the French Parliament. The law does prevent (as of January 2017) the sale of lightweight plastic disposable bags for packaging of fruits and vegetables, with the exception of those biodegradable and compostable (home compost) made from renewable raw materials, eliminating “biodegradable plastic made from petroleum origins such as Ecoflex from BASF. With respect to plastic shopping bags, starting January 2016, only thick or reusable bags are allowed.

The decree specifies the different types and characteristics for disposable bag currently offered at checkout in supermarkets: home compostable and compostable, as well as the minimum quantity of renewable raw materials required by the standard. The Decree also set rules for labeling to keep the consumers informed about the composition and use.

Regarding compostability domestic demand for bags for packaging of fruits and vegetables, the decree refers to the standard NF T 51–800 or pending its enactment, the criteria will be set by the Ministry the Environment.

The content of renewable raw materials (only for bags for bulk products) must be calculated as a percentage of total carbon from plant biomass according to ISO 16620–2: 2015. The bags must contain a minimum of 30% from January 1, 2017, before increasing to 40% from 1 January 2018, then to 50% (1 January 2020) and 60% (1 January 2025). This is an interesting twist as the majority of the bags are currently made using petroleum based polymer (although biodegradable) like Ecoflex, Poly-epsilon-caprolactone, Bionol or equivalent. Only one Italian company meets the requirements. One could wonder if there is not a monopolistic situation and if ENI has not been doing an efficient lobbying work in Brussels….time will allow other competitors to move in.

Regarding the labeling of the bags, if home compostable, the label must include the standard or specific reference to the decree, the indication that it can be collected with organic waste in compostable industrial waste plant and must not be discarded in the environment. The biobased content and the Standard used to calculate must also be indicated.

If the bags exceed 50 microns or have a volume over 25 liters, the mention “Reusable” has to be labeled along with the mention “no discard in nature”.

So far it is a Draft decree and it must pass the European Commission and be published in the “Journal Officiel” of the French Republic. Kudos to the French finally moving in the right direction following the Italians! Who is next?

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