A ban on single-use plastic bags in France will create around 6,000 jobs in the country’s bio-based industries, says Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal.

The French Ministry of Ecology last week (30 March) published a decree on the complete banning of single-use plastic bags from tills from 1 July this year, with similar plastic bags for fruit, vegetables, fish and delicatessen goods to be banned from 1 January 2017.

Single-use plastic bags are defined as those thinner than 50 microns (0.05 millimetres). Only compostable bags containing an increasing proportion of renewable raw materials will be excluded from the ban. From 1 January 2017, bags containing 30 per cent renewable raw materials will be allowed. This will increase to 50 per cent in 2020 and 60 per cent in 2025.

The ban was included in the Energy Transition for Green growth bill, which also initially carried laws against supermarkets destroying of food waste, and was originally scheduled to come into practice on at the beginning of this year. The ban was delayed until July, however, to give shopkeepers and suppliers a chance to use up their stock of plastic bags.

In a statement following the decree, the Ministry of Ecology focused on the environmental benefits of removing non-biodegradable plastic bags from the market, stating that they are used for a few minutes but take several hundred years to degrade and are ingested by marine animals and birds.

The ministry highlighted that 75 per cent of waste dumped at sea is plastic and used the case of sea turtles, which mistake plastic bags for jellyfish as an example of its destructive effect. Royale said that 86 per cent of marine turtles are affected by this phenomenon. In addition, in the North Sea, 94 per cent of the stomachs of birds contain plastic. In all, there are more than 260 species that are impacted by plastic bags.

Opportunity for bio-based industry

The French bioplastics association Club Bio-plastiques has noted the opportunity that the ban presents for the country’s green economy, stating that it will enable the development of an innovation chain and offer a lasting solution to the problem of persistent thin plastics in the environment.