Plastic packaging will be banned for around thirty fruits and vegetables on January 1, 2022. If distributors say they are ready, some of the producers are still contesting the new regulations.
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Last minute adjustments, and a few dead ends to resolve. Cahin-caha, the fruit and vegetable sector is preparing for the gradual abandonment of plastic packaging, from January 1, 2022. On that date, it will be banned for around thirty products when they are displayed on the shelves. For others, who present a “significant risk of deterioration when sold in bulk”, exemptions will be granted gradually until 2026, depending on the product.
Promulgated in early 2020, the text is one of the many measures provided for by the law on the fight against waste (Agec) to achieve the end of single-use plastic by 2040. As for the exemptions, they have no was only set for October 12, by decree, after long discussions between the government, the sectors and environmental organizations.
Distributors say they are ready. “We have been anticipating this for three years and have developed both bulk and packaging alternatives,” said Agathe Grossmith, director of CSR projects for the Carrefour group.
Example: replacing the plastic packaging of a fair trade organic banana with elastic tape has saved 32 tonnes of plastic per year. For the Casino group (Monoprix, Franprix, Géant Casino, etc.), it is indicated that the products concerned have already been on the shelves without plastic since December 15.
However, the transition is not obvious: “We had to find packaging strong enough not to degrade during transport and sufficiently open for consumers to see the products,” continues Agathe Grossmith. Because while it generates non-biodegradable waste, plastic also has its advantages, especially in terms of conservation and display.
The transition comes at a price. “Machines for other packaging cost several tens of thousands of euros, not to mention the additional cost of cardboard compared to plastic,” points out Laurent Grandin, president of the Interfel fruit and vegetable industry. “It creates a distortion between those who can invest and the rest. In particular, Interfel wanted recycled plastic to be authorized. An appeal to the Council of State has been filed.
Part of the industry also denounces the demands placed on it, although it only represents a “marginal” share of plastic packaging in distribution. “This is a purely political measure. Rather, it should have been taken at European level, ”adds Laurent Grandin.
In recent weeks, tension has crystallized over details of the text, sometimes technical, but with decisive consequences. In particular the issue of tie-down systems for bundled vegetables (radishes, carrots tops, etc.). It was a surprise from the October decree that these too must be plastic-free.
“We have adapted our production line for old vegetables, sold in trays, now in cardboard,” recalls Mickaël Boussault, technical manager for the Fleuron d´Anjou group of producers. “On the other hand, we don’t have solutions for the radish tie-down systems: we were using raffia, but which contains plastic so that it does not deteriorate. “
Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said on December 10 that they would benefit from “tolerance”. “The problem is that it is not written down anywhere”, alarms Mickaël Boussault, who fears legal repercussions, or on sales.
Another problem: that of the non-compostable labels (stickers), which must disappear on January 1. “They allow, for example, to authenticate the origin and variety of apples. However, until the last moment, we had no solution from the suppliers, “said Daniel Sauvaitre, general secretary of Interfel. Finally, one of them came up with a good alternative. “But this is not the case for all sectors,” regrets Daniel Sauvaitre.
The industry has yet to prepare bans for the most fragile products, which will come into force in the coming years, and for which alternatives do not always exist. The sector estimates that 37% of fruits and vegetables are now sold in packaging, but with big differences depending on the sector. The government, for its part, hopes the measure will remove more than a billion plastic packaging deemed unnecessary each year.
For vegetables, the plastic ban on January 1, 2022 concerns leeks, zucchini, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes and carrots, round tomatoes, onions and turnips, cabbages, cauliflower, squash, parsnips, radishes, root vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes.
For fruits, these are apples, pears, bananas, oranges, clementines, kiwis, tangerines, lemons, grapefruits, plums, melons, pineapples, mangoes, passion fruit and persimmons.
This ban applies to consignments of less than 1.5 kg consisting of “raw” fresh fruits and vegetables. Those already pre-cut or peeled can be sold in plastic.
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