The bag ban got a big boost after lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Commission for Sustainable Development voted in favour of it on Wednesday during a debate on a biodiversity bill, French newspaper Le Parisien reported.
The ban was proposed in an amendment of the bill by Ségolène Royal, France’s new Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, who joined the government three months ago.
“It’s a very important step, which has been anticipated for a very long time by environmental associations. We don’t realize the extent to which non-biodegradable plastic bags lead to pollution and excessive waste, which can considerable harm, notably to fish,” said Royal, the former wife of French President François Hollande.
The ban will include all single-use plastic bags, as well as those used for fruit and vegetables, unless the bags are biodegradable.
Instead of plastic bags for carrying the shopping home the bill proposes the use of other containers such as trolleys or shopping baskets.
Thanks to a previous voluntary agreement, the number of plastic bags distributed at supermarket counters in France has already decreased drastically from 10.5 billion to 700 million between 2002 and 2011.
That number is set to decrease even further after the government introduced a tax of around six centimes per plastic bag in January this year.
But for Ségolène Royal, this is simply not enough.
“It’s advisable to continue with this reduction because almost five billion single use plastic shopping bags and more than 12 million bags for fruit and vegetables are still being distributed in shops,” according to the government’s explanation of the amendment.
The latest change to the bill is the first time plastic bags used for fruit and vegetables will also be targeted, according to Le Parisien.
Needless to say, the amendment was welcomed by French environmental groups, including France Nature Environnement (FNE) who described it as “good news”.
However FNE added that the bill should also target biodegradable plastic bags which it says are treated with harmful chemicals.
French consumer group UFC-Quechoisir also backed the move. "Finally we are dealing with the root of the problem," the group's Nicolas Mouchnino told Le Figaro.
The proposed ban comes seven months after the European Commission adopted a proposal to force European Union member states to greatly reduce their consumption of plastic bags.
The date for the re-examination of the new bill before parliament has not yet been set.