France to Ban Plastic Packaging on Fresh Fruit and Veg

Sometimes you hear a bit of news that cheers you up so much that you literally start dancing round the room ... and this was exactly what happened when I heard the news that France is to ban plastic packaging on all fresh fruit and vegetables. Yes, you did read that correctly - France is banning plastic packaging on fresh fruit and veg.  This is absolutely amazing news and I am still smiling about it several days later.

France to ban plastic packaging on fresh fruit and veg

France to Ban Plastic Packaging on Fresh Fruit and Veg.

This radical move is planned to take place in 2 stages.  By January 2022 (just a few weeks away at the time of writing) plastic packaging will be banned in 30 types of fruit and vegetables and by 2026 (to allow suppliers and sellers to develop alternatives for products such as berries) there will be a total ban.

France already sells A LOT of its fresh fruit and veg without plastic packaging and not just in zero-waste shops. Go into any mainstream supermarket and you see much less plastic than in the UK or Ireland.  You will be able to buy almost every type of fruit or veg without plastic, with perhaps the exception of soft fruit. Mind you in one supermarket, Grand Frais, they are already selling things like blueberries and bunches of fresh herbs loose with the herbs and other more delicate products like lettuce sprayed with a regular mist of water to keep them fresh.  France has already almost stopped plastic bags for loose products and instead supermarkets supply bags made from corn starch or paper.  All supermarkets now sell reusable produce bags. I have been using these for several years and initially they were a talking point at the till - now no-one mentions anything as they are more commonly used.

Plastic free blueberries,  Grand Frais, Caen, Normandy

Loose blueberries at Grand Frais, Mondeville, Caen

Fresh herbs being sprayed with water to keep them fresh at Grand Frais,

Potential problems of going plastic free

When I shared this news in sustainability Facebook group a couple of points were raised.

One person was concerned that produce without plastic would be damaged in transit if it was not wrapped in plastic. I have no doubt that, at the moment at least, produce will still have plastic packaging around the crates etc it is delivered in but I am hopeful in time that this too will be banned.  France has already shown it can sell such a large amount of produce plastic free. One way it does this is to have more localised delivery system and does not send vegetables across the country to be packaged and then back to close to where they were grown to be sold.  Supermarkets are also often franchised allowing them to buy local produce.  We once watched as a farmer unload fresh fruit from the back of his van and straight into a supermarket. You also find in France that supermarkets sell mostly seasonal food with far less imported produce - in winter a few tomatoes etc varieties will be available (most likely from French or Dutch heated greenhouses) but come the summer the numbers sold will increase greatly and they will mostly all have been grown in France. In fairness the person raising this damage issue lives in Canada where often their produce has to travel long distances and a lot of produce cannot be grown locally for much of the year.

Person number two felt that France and French people would not follow this new law as she said they are known for flouting laws.  I simply do not see this being the case - supermarkets etc will have to implement the no plastic law and so customers will only have "naked" produce on offer.  Already people are very happy to buy plastic free produce and you often see people just adding loose produce to their trolley/basket/own bags. At the market is is common to see people handing over their own bags for the stallholder to fill.

Person three felt it would lead to more waste, presumably through damaged produce in the shops.  In fact I believe the opposite will be the case.  When I was travelling in England a few years ago I was on my own and wanted 2 tomatoes but the lowest number I could buy was 6 and ALL the produce was sold wrapped in plastic.  I ended up not buying them as I would have wasting the extra ones so how often are people forced into buying more produce that they need?  I also saw potatoes and onions sold in plastic bags and they were both sweating which would presumably lead to them not lasting well and risk being spoilt before they could be used.  It is true that some produce may be damaged in the shop but overall I would imagine this will be less than how much is wasted in homes where too much produce has been bought.  Furthermore in 2016 France brought in a law that bans supermarkets from throwing away food that is close to its sell by date or close to being spoilt.  Many shops therefore sell it off at reduced price and Lidl does boxes of fresh fruit and veg for 1€. Other food is sent to food banks and charities.

Can you think of any problems that will result from this ban on plastic packaging? If you have think France will achieve their goal then have a look at these photos taken in France of all the plastic free produce already available:

Plastic free tomaotes, Normandy, France

Tomatoes etc sold without plastic packaging in Super U, Condé-sur-Noireau, Normandy

Loose blueberries in a supermarket in Normandy, France

Loose blueberries in Grand Frais, Caen, Normandy

Plastic free organic apples, Normandy

Loose organic apples at Biocoop, Flers

Plastic free organic vegetables, Normandy, France

Plastic free organic vegetables, Biocoop

Plastic free tropical fruits, Normandy, Fance

Tropical fruits sold without plastic packaging in Grand Frais.

Frech salads sold plastic free, Normandy, France

Plastic free lettuces being misted with water to keep them fresh at Grand Frais.

Loose spinch, Caen, Normandy

Loose spinach at Grand Frais

Plastic free chillies, in Caen, Normandy, France

Plastic free chillies, fresh pepper, turmeric etc at Grand Frais

Organic tomaotes sold in a cardboard box, Vassy, Normandy

Organic tomatoes sold in a cardboard box, Carrefour, Vassy

Organic courgettes, Vassy, Normandy

Organic courgettes with a small label to identify them, Vassy

What do you think of this move? Do you think it will France achieve its goal of zero plastic packaging on fresh fruit and veg by 2026? If these pictures of the state of produce before the law comes into practice is anything to go by then I am confident it will be successful.

And what about where you live - is much produce sold without plastic?  I'd love to hear in a comments on this subject.

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France to ban plastic packaging on fresh fruit and veg

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