As impossible as it is to imagine a world without plastic waste, we just got a little bit closer to that reality as France has set a 2020 deadline to ban plastic cutlery unless it’s made from biodegradable material.
The ban makes France the first country in the world to enact such a rule, and comes after France recently banned single-use plastic bags in July—a move many cities and states in the U.S. have already made with notable success.
Plastic forks, spoons, and knives are big business for restaurants around the world, but in keeping up with its commitment to reduce its impact on the environment, France sees the ban as a vital and simple step. The plastic cutlery producers, however, see it much differently.
"We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law," Pack2Go Europe secretary general Eamonn Bates told The Associated Press. "If they don't, we will."
According to Fast Company, the ban was signed into law last year, but it’s the pushback from the plastic packaging lobby group that has brought recent attention to the rule.
Pack2Go says France’s ban violates EU regulations on the free movement of goods, “which doesn’t seem to apply in this case, as all plastic cutlery and cups would be banned, not just those from other EU member states,” reports Fast Company.
And in what appears to be a move of desperation, Pack2Go suggests opting for biodegradable plastic instead of petroleum-based plastic cutlery would lead to people just leaving their used bio plastic forks and spoons all over the place assuming that the utensils would just breakdown and disappear into the environment.
As interesting an image as that creates—vanishing forks sound like the perfect fodder for cinema verité—it’s hardly likely that there will be used bio utensils strewn about in France anymore than they are already.
Plastic bag bans, for example, have resulted not in paper bags being left out on the streets, but rather, in shifting consumer habits—bringing a tote bag along to the market is as easy as bringing along a shopping list, and most people don’t bat an eyelash at adding that extra step.
The benefits of reducing plastic products—especially single-use items, are significant. Plastic takes ages to break down, and when it does, it finds its way into animals vital to ecosystems as well as waterways. The chemicals in plastics also pose human health risks such as endocrine disruption.
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Takeout with fork image via Shutterstock