France bans single-use plastics in dine-in restaurants and fast food places to drive circularity

FRANCE – The French Government has passed a law banning the use of single-use packaging in dine-in restaurants, and fast-food places as reported by the Guardian.

Effective 1 January, the law prohibits major fast-food chains from offering foods in throwaway boxes or single-use cutlery such as knives or forks.

The new law requires restaurants that can serve more than 20 customers at a time to offer reusable plates, cups and cutlery instead of single-use items.

The move, which French environmental groups called a “complete paradigm shift” for the sector, is intended to help reduce plastic and other types of waste in France.

Around 30,000 fast food restaurants in France reportedly serve around 6 billion meals annually, generating 2 million tonnes of waste annually.

Out of the generated waste, 55% is from people eating in, according to Environmental groups.

Under the new law, restaurants and cafes will replace boxes with paper wrappers for eat-in burgers and sandwiches.

In addition, other food items such as nuggets, pizzas, cakes and ice creams will be served on plates or in reusable containers.

“We’re pleased that this is finally coming into force,” said Alice Elfassi, head of legal affairs for the NGO Zero Waste France, which pushed for the measure in a law that was published in 2020 but gave companies until 2023 to prepare.

“Fast food is a sector that produces a lot of waste. Although single-use plastic had already been banned, it had been replaced by large amounts of throwaway products like cardboard, wood, and bamboo, which we consider an unacceptable waste of resources.”

Despite having sufficient time to prepare for the transition, many restaurants are expected to switch to hard plastics to contain food.

This type of plastic is not strong enough to be washed and reused over long periods of time.

Alice Elfassi added: “Most fast-food restaurants won’t switch to classic, long-wearing glass or china that lasts years, they will opt for hard plastic, and we have concerns about its durability – will it withstand hundreds of washes or will it be thrown out after only a few? We’ll be vigilant on that.”

Zero Waste France and other groups are pressuring the government to conduct proper checks on whether fast-food restaurants are respecting the law, and hand out fines if necessary. It said there should also be consideration of what alternatives are put in place.

The ban on single-use packaging in restaurants comes a year after France banned single-use plastic packaging for more than 30 types of fruits and vegetables.

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