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France moves step closer to plastic bag ban

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France moves step closer to plastic bag ban
Plastic bags will soon become a thing of the past in France. Photo: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP
09:32 CEST+02:00
The prospect of a nationwide plastic bag ban in France moved a step closer this week with the proposal included in the government's energy bill that was debated in Parliament. Paris is leading the race to be the country's first plastic bag free city.

The Socialist government has long had plastic bags in its sights and the prospect of a ban on supermarkets handing out them out is becoming more a reality.

The country’s Environment Minister Ségoléne Royal made it clear earlier this year her intention to make plastic bags at supermarket checkouts a thing of the past.

“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, at the time.

The measure which would bring an end to single use bags has been included in the government’s energy transition bill that was debated by parliament this week.

Under the proposal plastic bags would be banned in shops from January 1st 2016. The bill does not include a ban on those plastic bags that are deemed re-usable or biodegradable. It also suggests promoting other methods to carry home shopping such as trolleys.

Thanks to a previous voluntary agreement, the number of plastic bags distributed at large supermarket counters in France has already decreased drastically from 10.5 billion to 700 million between 2002 and 2011.

But in all around 5 billion are still handed out at check-outs and another 12 billion distributed at fruit and veg stalls.

Authorities in Paris have already stolen a lead and are not waiting for the government’s bill to come into force.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo proposed launching consultations with large supermarkets to try and make the city the first in France to stop the distribution of plastic bags.

"This afternoon I propose that Paris becomes the first first city in France to halt the distribution of single use plastic bags," Hidalgo tweeted.

France’s efforts to reduce the number of plastic bags in distribution comes on the back of a call by the EU asking member states to reduce the 100 billion bags handed out by 80 percent.

When it comes to the countries that hand out the most, France is one of the more environmentally conscious pupils in the EU, with inhabitants using around 80 plastic bags each year on average, according to 2010 figures from the EU.

Bottom of the class comes Estonia, where around 450 single use bags are used each year per inhabitant.

Top of the class come the Nordic countries of Denmark and Finland where citizens use only four plastic bags on average each year.

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