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Environment For Members

Plastic bans to repair bonus: How France's anti-waste laws work

The Local France
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Plastic bans to repair bonus: How France's anti-waste laws work
A public fountain in Paris. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

France has a remarkable set of anti-waste laws that lay out a six-year plan to reduce waste, end single-use plastics and encourage consumers to repair and recycle their stuff. Here's what is in store for 2024 and beyond

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In recent years, France has made strides to decrease waste, promote recycling and end the use of single-use plastics in businesses, shops and restaurants across the country.

The landmark legislation was the Loi relative à la lutte contre le gaspillage et à l'économie circulaire (law on anti-waste and towards a circular economy, also called "loi Agec") which was passed in 2020 and phases in new measures up until 2026.

The law has five primary goals: to move away from single-use plastics, better inform customers (eg. bin colours, labels), decrease waste, act against programmed obsolescence, and generally to produce better, longer lasting environmentally-friendly items.

To accomplish this, the measures range from individual-focused assistance like repair bonuses to larger scale rules affecting companies and businesses, as well as local recycling rules.

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What changes in 2024?

By January 1st, 2024 France plans to ban the sale of medical devices containing microplastics (mostly disposable medical devices such as syringes). 

Also from January 1st, the government will introduce 'compost obligatoire' (compulsory composting). However, the phrase is something of a misnomer - there is no requirement for households to compost, or to separate their biowaste from other refuse – the obligation is on local authorities to offer easy-to-use means by which households can compost, if they want to. 

It remains to be seen how effectively this will be rolled out, as many localities were still trying to figure out plans for collecting and delivering the biowaste for processing. 

READ MORE: Compulsory composting: What changes for recycling in France in 2024

Another goal for 2024 is for the existing 'reparability index' - which was rolled out in 2021 for five product categories (smartphones, laptops, televisions, lawnmowers, window washing machines) - to transform into a 'sustainability index'. New criteria would be added, such as the robustness or reliability of products.

There will also be smaller changes to existing measures, like the repair bonus for electronics. Starting in 2024, a total of 73 products will be eligible, with help ranging from €15 to €60.

Many bonus amounts will be increased, with five everyday devices seeing the bonus at least doubled. As such, washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers can get €50 in the bonus, rather than €25. Television screens will be eligible for €60, instead of €30, and vacuums, which once only got €15 in aid, will benefit from up to €40.

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Individuals will also be able to use the bonus on smartphone repairs, including those for the battery, speaker, microphone, photo lens and screen. 

READ MORE: How to save money in France on electrical repairs

What changed in 2023?

At the start of 2023, fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's were prohibited from using disposable tableware and cups for meals served on site. This rule required any restaurant with more than 20 seats, which also includes work canteens and bakery chains, to provide reusable and washable tableware for customers dining in.

Textile and clothing stores were required to inform shoppers of which country the material was produced and manufactured in. This part of the anti-waste law was intended to increase consumption of clothing produced within France, but it also sought to draw attention to the share of recycled materials used in producing the textile itself.

France also made recycling easier in 2023 - all paper, plastic, metal and cardboard objects can now go in the yellow recycling bins across the country. Previously, the rules were often different based on individual localities for items like yogurt pots, toothpaste tubes and coffee capsules.

The law also made it so paper receipts are no longer automatically printed, but they can still be requested by the customer. This went into effect in August 2023 after having been pushed back.

In November 2023, the government also introduced a 'clothes and shoes repair bonus' that allows people to get financial assistance ranging from €7 to €25, in a scheme similar to the electrical items repair bonus.

READ MORE: How France's clothes and shoes repair bonus works

New measures for 2025-2026

At the start of 2025, the country will require that all new washing machines have a device to filter out plastic microfibres, in an effort to keep them from going into the water supply. 

Also, as of January 1st, 2025 newspapers and magazines will no longer be able to be shipped with plastic wrapping. This same rule went into effect for advertising materials on January 1st, 2023. In 2025, paediatric, obstetric, maternity wards, and perinatal centres, will no longer be able to use plastic containers for reheating or cooking baby food, in an effort to "prevent exposure to endocrine disruptors." 

Later, in 2026, France will ban the sale of cosmetic products that contain microplastics - such as shampoos, hair colouring products, shower gels and makeup removers. 

What about the other changes that have already gone into effect?

2021

First, the ministry of environment published a five year "3R" decree outlining targets for the reduction, reuse and recycling of single-use plastic packaging for the period running from 2021-2025.

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This included the target of reducing the sale of single-use plastic packaging by 20 percent by 2025, the goal to end all "unnecessary" single-use packaging (for example, plastic packaging around batteries and light bulbs) by the end of 2025, and plans to recycle 100 percent of all plastic packaging in France by 2025.

If you shop in French supermarkets you will probably have noticed a gradual shift to paper and cardboard packaging and few cellophane wraps.

The first tranche of the law also required companies to be more forthright regarding planned obsolescence - for instance, requiring manufacturers to respect a period of time considered to be "normal" where functionality should continue despite new updates. It also included plans to encourage the repair of electronic and home items by creating a 'repairability index' to inform consumers of how difficult or non-repairable the device might be.

In 2021 France also banned businesses from selling single-use plastic straws, disposable plastic cutlery, plastic lids for takeaway cups, expanded polystyrene boxes (such as kebab boxes), steak picks, balloon stems, plastic confetti and all oxo-degradable plastic objects.

The country also instituted several rules to encourage people to buy loose, unpackaged items rather than those wrapped in plastic. This meant that vendors were required to accept any containers or bags brought in by the customer to carry non-packaged items. It also made it so that large businesses - those bigger than 400m2 - would have to provide some form of reusable container (either free or paid) for customers to use when shopping. 

2021 also saw the government ban the free distribution of plastic bottles in businesses, coupled with an investment in water fountains. Establishments open to the public were also banned from distributing free plastic water bottles, and festivals and cultural/ sporting events were no longer allowed to require that attendees only use plastic water bottles. 

Supermarkets were also required to install trash and recycling bins to sort waste after checkout, and the import of single-use plastic bags was prohibited. 

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2022

In 2022, establishments open to the public - like railways stations, libraries, schools, and hospitals - were required to provide a water fountain. As for bars and restaurants, they were required to indicate on their menus or somewhere visible to the public that free drinking water was available. 

Additionally, plastic tea bags, plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kg and plastic toys distributed free of charge in fast-food restaurants were all banned in France. 

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Single-use plastics were also entirely banned for government-organised events and within public (governmental) workspaces.

In 2022, the country also banned the destruction of unsold items like electronics and hygiene products, after having already banned destroying unsold food products in 2016.

Consumers who have electrical items repaired, rather than throwing them away, can now claim a discount on the cost of repairs.

Local laws

The above are all nationwide rules, but local authorities have the power to introduce their own restrictions and many have done so - especially in the many towns and cities run by Green councils.

From providing free composting facilities to making it mandatory for shops and bars to fill up a customer's water bottle with tap water, you're likely to see various schemes in place across the country. 

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