France bans plastic packaging on fruit and vegetables

Move is part of a strategy to protect the environment by reducing plastic use and greenhouse emissions

Peppers wrapped in plastic in a grocery stall in Paris before a French government ban on such packaging went into effect on January 1, 2022. AP Photo

France banned plastic packaging for dozens of fruits and vegetables – with effect from Saturday – as part of the government's latest measures to protect the environment.

Under a multi-year plan to cut down the use of plastic, the government banned plastic straws, cups, cutlery and styrofoam takeaway boxes in 2021.

The latest ban applies to leeks and carrots, tomatoes and potatoes, apples and pears and about 30 other items which will now have to be wrapped in other, recyclable materials. Plastic will still be allowed for more fragile fruit such as berries and peaches, but is to be gradually banned in the coming years.

The government says the new regulation, being implemented under a law passed in February last year, is expected to eliminate about one billion items of plastic waste a year.

Cut fruit and a limited number of delicate fruit and vegetables can still be sold with plastic packaging for now, but the practice will be phased out by end June 2026.

Plastic packaging will be banned for cherry tomatoes, green beans and peaches by the end of June 2023, and for endives, asparagus, mushrooms, some salads and herbs as well as cherries by the end of 2024.

By July 2026, raspberries, strawberries and other delicate berries will have to be sold without plastic.

"We use an outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives. The circular economy law aims at cutting back the use of throwaway plastic and boost its substitution by other materials or reusable and recyclable packaging," the ministry said when announcing the measures in October.

From this year, magazines and other publications will also need to be shipped without plastic wrapping, and fast-food restaurants will no longer be allowed to offer free plastic toys to children.

In another move meant to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, advertisements for cars will be required to encourage people to consider greener transport. Starting from March, they will have to mention one of three messages: For short trips, prefer walking or cycling; Think about carpooling; On a daily basis, take public transport.

According to a decree published this week, the new regulation will apply to ads on television, radio, newspapers, billboards and online. Advertisers who do not comply will face a fine of up to €50,000 ($56,652) per run.

Similar mandatory messages have been part of ads for processed foods in France since 2007, such as “For your health, avoid eating too fatty, too sweet, too salty”.

Also this year, French phone operators and internet providers will be asked to give their customers an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions generated by their use of the internet and mobile phones.

The move is meant to raise greater public awareness of the environmental impact of digital technology. Emissions are notably generated by data centres, which use energy to create data clouds. A senate report last year found that the sector accounted for 2 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in France in 2019.

Updated: January 1st 2022, 7:51 AM