Urgent situations call for drastic measures – this, more or less, seems to be the motto that France has shown in terms of plastic garbage this year. No little step-by-step plans or compromises, no – in July they already banned plastic bags completely. This measure is to save about 17 billion plastic bags a year. But that’s not all: Producers and consumers get about three years to prepare for the next big change: plastic cups, plates and cutlery cannot be sold any longer as of 2020.

The use of plastic cups alone in France is an estimated 4.7 billion a year, only about 1% can be recycled. President François Hollande wants to pioneer sustainability and goes ahead; while other countries have only been discussing the matter so far, France makes short work of plastic.


This fits the country’s general approach: Conditions that are outworn and not maintainable in today’s world are treated quickly. While elsewhere simple, easy-changeable measures often fail because of existing laws France simply changes those laws and leaves consumers no choice but to adapt their behaviour to the new regulations. Earlier this year, for example, grocers were compelled to donate leftover food or pass it on to agricultural enterprises so that it can be used as animal food or compost. The bigger shops have to donate their residual food to charitable organisations.


There is hope to achieve fast improvements on a national level by these radical measures, but people do have a few years to prepare and find more sustainable solutions in the meantime. These bans reach all the people, everyone has to think about the topic in the near future, this is not a topic only for those, who already care for the planet.

Even though paper bags and bio-degradable single-use cups can still be used, some big steps are done. Maybe one or two other countries will learn a lesson from this …