France’s fast-food revolution 

January 1st 2023 marked the three-year deadline for all fast-food stores, cantinas and food outlets larger than 20 seats, to ban single-use tableware for customers eating-in. 

The law is part of France’s Energy Transition for Green Growth Act 2015. There, discussions of % reductions goals for fossil fuel consumption, GHG emissions, household waste, and landfill waste where all set. 

In the most recent ban, affected facilities have had to provide reusable tablerware to combat the single-use waste generated. It’s estimated that 30,000 fast-food outlets in France serves 6 billon meals a year, generating 180,000 tonnes of waste. French Environmental groups said more than half of that was generated by people eating in. Take-away customers are yet to be affected. However, the hopes are to eventual roll out other schemes to tackle the takeout issue. 

In 2016, measures governing the ban on disposable plastic cups, glasses and plates were adopted. Although they did not come into force until January 1, 2020. This was a deliberate consideration by Ségolène Royal, the French Environment Minister (at the time), who had initially considered it an “anti-social” provision, since many low-income families relied on plastic utensils and plates. It’s important to design policies that don’t negatively affect any portion of the poputions, and keep in mind the needs and capability of others when any policy is put in place. 

The 2016 move towards less plastic, probably hadn’t led had the same effect that many Environmetnal groups fully hope for as there was no change in consumption rates, but rather simply replaced by large volumes of throwaway products made of cardboard, wood, and bamboo. Which is still consider an unacceptable waste of resources. Now it has largely reverted back to plastic as the made materials for the reusable tablerware, with the exception of burgers being wrapped in paper. 

With this is mind, moving forward, it would be very interesting to see if France is able to curb the stealing of these items, which has already made news in France five days into the new year. Stealing these novel items which are seen as currently as collectors items could mean a potential leakage problem aside from general wear-and-tear. As well as, taking a deliberate focus on the supply chains of these new tableware products, and also to develop a proper waste stream for organic waste, which will actually start in 2024. In recent years, many of the countries that have rolled out plastic ban policies, have had many of the same issue as that France faced, whereby systems didn’t change, only the specific materials being thrown away, which meant that no systems were add to process the biogigrable waste from single-use cardboard, wood and bamboo, which an industrial level compost system should have been able to handle. 


By Jo Didi Ho for Collective Green