A new law in France will require that beginning in 2020, all disposable dishes be made of biologically sourced materials and have the ability to be composted. No more of the traditional plastic cups, silverware or containers as we know them.

As you can imagine, the measure is extremely controversial and manufacturers are already suing to repeal the law.

What I found interesting was that not only that the Environment Minister himself initially opposed the law, but his rationale. Minister Segolene Royal stated that it was an “anti-social” measure because families struggling financially make regular use of disposable tableware*. Huh?

It would seem that those interested in either the environment or economics would tend to use reusable silverware and eat at home instead of on-the-go much more often. It called to mind this message: “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 plastic spoon and the debates in France are examples that we often only consider what is in front of us and not the longer term implications of either where it came from or what ramifications it causes. It may be easier to use a plastic spoon and toss it, but when it happens millions of times a day it has an impact. We may want to ban plastic spoons, but when the economics of the supply chain are factored in, we may come to a different conclusion.

Instead of throwing out the next piece of plastic dinnerware that you use, bring it home and put it on your desk. Use it as a reminder that we need to look at the whole system and play our part in making it better.

beth triplett

Source: France bids adieu to plastic dishes in controversial ban by Samuel Petrequin for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, September 18, 2016, p 16A.

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