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Europe: France deems biobased bags necessary for green growth

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29The French parliament has adopted the law on energy transition and green growth proposed by Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.

European Bioplastics says it welcomes the opportunities created by the new law to introduce biobased, compostable plastics to selected types of packaging as well as fruit and vegetable bags.

Besides plans to reduce the share of nuclear power in the French energy mix, the law contains a range of legislative proposals such as on renewables (40% by 2030) and carbon dioxide reduction (-40% by 2030).

Bioplastic lightweight bags for fruits and vegetables, for example, will need to be biobased and compostable in home composting from 1 January 2017.

The minimum biobased content and its progressive increase will be defined in a decree of the State Council, which will also define measures for consumer information about the material composition and utilization of such bags. Furthermore, plastic packaging for commercial mailshots will have to be biodegradable/compostable in home composting by 1 January 2017.

“These provisions represent an important step for the French bioplastics industry, which has invested more than €40 million [US$44.28 million] in the last 15 years,” states Christophe Doukhi-de Boissoudy, president of French association Club Bio-plastiques.

“Unfortunately, however, an important opportunity to promote single-use bags that are biobased and biodegradable at the cashier’s desk was missed.”

“They could have been a valuable tool to safely transport goods and later on to hygienically collect biowaste.”

Compostable plastics

The French law on energy transition and green growth also clearly distinguishes between biobased, biodegradable/compostable plastics and oxo-fragmentable plastics.

Compostable plastics that have been certified according to harmonized European norms support a separate biowaste collection and home-composting infrastructures.

They help to keep other waste streams such as mechanical recycling efficient and clean. Oxo-fragmentable plastics are essentially durable, fossil-based plastics with artificial additives, which cause the plastic to fragment into micro-particles.

They do not meet the European norms for compostability and can potentially hinder mechanical recycling.

European Bioplastics therefore welcomes the clear vote of the French institutions to prohibit the production, distribution, sale, provision and utilization of packaging or bags made partially or completely from oxo-fragmentable plastics.