France has become the first country in the world to ban plastic cutlery. The new law means any plastic food and drink implements must be compostable and are made of biologically-sourced materials.
It’s a bold, important move and it’s one Ireland must follow.
The legislation comes into effect in 2020 and will help reduce France’s reliance on non-biodegradable plastics. Currently one hundred and fifty single-use cups are thrown away every second in the country – 4.73 billion per year, according to the French Association of Health and Environment, ASEF. And only 1% of them is recycled, largely because they are made of a mixture of polypropylene and polystyrene.
Staggering numbers but France is hardly exceptional. Virtually every country in Europe including Ireland has similar wasteful habits.
These plastics are building up in the marine environment with an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the seas, many just 5mm across. Vast areas areas of sea have turned into thick garbage patches – and these colossal sores are only the most obvious indicators of a damage that is much more invasive.
Plastic clogs whole ecosystems, choking wildlife, carpeting the sea bed, releasing toxins as it degrades, poisoning the food chain and ultimately poisoning us.
But we can fix this.
— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) September 26, 2016
The accumulation of plastic in the environment has echoes of an earlier pollution crisis – the build up of CFC’s in the atmosphere. Used in fridges and aerosol cans, those man-made chemicals had the rather nasty side effect of destroying the ozone layer. But effective action was taken – the offending chemicals were banned – and the ozone layer is now healing. It required a global effort.
With plastic pollution, we know we have a serious problem and it requires a similar global effort. And now is the time for action.
We’ve seen what smart legislation can do. Charging a tiny fee for plastic bags effectively wiped the scourge of plastic bags from the Irish landscape. France’s effort to take non biodegradable plastics will have an equally significant impact on the environment.
Nobody misses plastic bags, no one will miss plastic cutlery when they’re gone. It’s time to fight back against our own wasteful habits that needlessly damage the environment. Ireland should follow France’s lead and ban non-biodegradable plastics.