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France just banned all plastic plates, cups and utensils

Plastic flatware

(NaturalNews) France has now become the first country in the world to ban plates, cups and utensils that are made of plastic. While this move is long overdue, it's important to note that the ban will not go into effect immediately. Instead, manufacturers will have until 2020 to get on board.

Replacements have to be formulated using compostable materials that have been biologically sourced. These actions will have a significant impact when they are instituted throughout France, with estimates placing the number of plastic cups that were thrown away in the country last year at 4.73 billion. Just 1 percent of these items are recycled.

France has taken a number of environmentally friendly steps recently as part of its Energy Transition for Green Growth Act. France is hoping to become a global leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping the environment. Their aim is to embrace a circular economy of waste disposal that stretches from the design of products all the way through recycling.

Plastic shopping bags already banned in France

In July, plastic shopping bags were completely banned in the country's supermarket checkouts, and they will also be banned in produce departments starting on January 1, 2017. Approximately 17 billion plastic shopping bags are used in French supermarkets each year. In addition, the country passed a law earlier this year requiring that supermarkets donate any unsold food to charity.

Conservation groups are applauding the move to ban plastic plates and utensils. Experts predict that the world's oceans will contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050, and it will take bold and widespread moves like this one to help salvage the situation and support clean water.

Plastic does not biodegrade, and the small particles it breaks down into are dangerous to wildlife. Ocean life in particular has trouble distinguishing these particles from actual food. In fact, it is estimated that more than a million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from the plastic in the world's oceans. Moreover, the manufacturing of plastic utensils and bags requires the use of millions of barrels of oil annually.

It's not just wildlife and the environment that are at risk; some types of plastic pose a number of health risks to humans. One plastic compound, bisphenol A (BPA), is known to disrupt the endocrine system, and has been linked to breast cancer, infertility, heart disease, nervous system damage and obesity.

Plastics industry trying to stop ban

Predictably, those in the plastic packaging industry are pulling out all the stops to try to prevent the ban from going into effect. The European manufacturing organization Pack2Go Europe says it will fight the law. They claim that it violates the rights of manufacturers to make their packaging as they see fit, and claim it will somehow inspire people to litter more.

According to the Washington Post, supporters actually wanted the ban to be enacted sooner, but French environmental minister Segolene Royal had viewed the provision as being "anti-social" initially, because families with lower incomes tend to use plastic plates and utensils. This resulted in the ban being postponed until 2020.

If other countries follow France's example, it could well improve the serious problems that are currently facing our environment. According to Eco Watch, 10 tons of plastic fragments enter the Pacific Ocean each day in Los Angeles alone, including grocery bags, soda bottles and straws. More than half of the plastic used by humans is used just once and then thrown away, with the amount of plastic tossed each year enough to circle around our planet four times. This situation is already out of control, and it's going to take serious changes like those enacted in France to turn it around.

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