There is a meme that occasionally turns up in Facebook newsfeeds that goes something like this:
“It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it, and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’re done with it.”
The problem, of course is that plastic spoons – and knives, forks, dishes and plates – tend to get thrown out after use. And by “out”, we generally mean into the seas and oceans where a mountain of plastic waste is threatening a mass extinction of marine life.
In response to this, France has introduced a new law to outlaw petroleum-based materials in the manufacture of all disposable utensils and dishes. From 2020, only disposable utensils made of organic, biodegradable materials will be allowed in France.
The French government is also seeking EU-wide legislation to extend the ban, which is seen as an extension to successful initiatives to curb the use of plastic bags. As David Z. Morris at Fortune notes:
“Plastic bags have been banned or regulated in dozens of municipalities in the U.S., including San Jose, New York City, and even the entire state of Hawaii… There are already a number of companies producing alternatives to plasticware, including California-based World Centric and Michigan-based Fabri-Kal. The products are derived from a variety of alternative materials, including processed plant starch, bio-plastics, and plain old paper.”
We can only wait to see whether a post-Brexit UK government will sign up to the ban.