A surprise vote in one house of France's Parliament to outlaw nonbiodegradable plastic bags and packaging by 2010 has sparked a storm of protest from the plastics industry in France and beyond.
At least one plastics industry executive is confident the ban will be blocked, but nevertheless leaders were shocked by the vote to ban most plastics packaging in less than five years.
French Assembly members debating government agricultural proposals Oct. 11 passed unanimously an amendment banning the sale and distribution of all plastic bags and packaging unless made of biodegradable material.
The measure, initiated by two assembly members, was one of a string of environmental amendments debated, and is aimed at boosting French agriculture through increased demand for crops used as raw materials for biodegradable packaging.
In Paris, the French plastics industry organization, La Federation de la Plasturgie, demanded an immediate ``total renegotiation'' of the measure. It pointed out that national packaging companies already proposed the use of biodegradable plastics and applications are being developed for those.
Extending that through legislation to all packaging ``is totally unrealistic'' and is ``incompatible'' with the European Union's 2004 amended packaging directive, it argued in a brief statement.
Industry organizations intend to lobby French politicians in the hope that the amendment is thrown out when it is debated in the Senate.
France's plastic film and packaging producers' body CSEMP said biodegradables already are in use in supermarket bags, trays, sachets for ready-to-cook vegetables, cups and bin liners. Such containers represent 0.8 percent of the tonnage of plastics packaging in today's market.
Paris-based CSEMP argued that a total ban on nonbiodegradable plastic packaging is counterproductive and unrealistic. It does not take into account the need for container/content compatibility and economical access to sufficient raw materials.
``Developments may be possible, but they need time,'' it said in a statement. ``We should push, encourage and support [biodegradable plastic packaging], but we must not bring about its failure by unjustly demanding the impossible.''
At the western regional offices of the polymer producers' organization PlasticsEurope, there was stronger condemnation of the French move: ``This dictatorial measure is a bad blow to the environment that it claims to defend. PlasticsEurope France demands its withdrawal in the Senate and ... a return to the conclusions of the multiparty working group of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development,'' it said.
PlasticsEurope argued that the assembly amendment was a backward step and countered the positive conclusions of eight months of ministry talks involving all interests including the agriculture and plastics sectors, ecologists and the government.
Regional PlasticsEurope director Michel Loubry said he is confident the measure can be blocked.