Total output price index in national currency (Gross data) 2010 = 100 (green circle); Industry production index (Seasonally adjusted data) 2010 = 100 (grey circle); Source: Eurostat, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/short-term-business-statistics/data/database

France’s Environment Ministry has announced that it will ban shops from selling single-use plastic bags thinner than 50 microns beginning 1 July. This is the third deadline the ministry has given in 2016 for banning such bags, the first two being 1 January and 1 April.

Environment Minister Ségolène Royal says shops have been given more time to adapt to the regulation and to find new suppliers of bags, which, if plastic, must be thicker and reusable, or made from paper.

Beginning 1 January 2017, many other types of single-use bags, such as those for fruits and vegetables, thinner than 50 microns will be permitted only if they are biodegradable and partially or totally biobased.

The regulation does not affect garbage bags and green waste bags.

Carbios, a France-based developer of enzymated plastics, plans to capitalize on the regulation, saying its enzymated plastics biodegrade within months under household waste composting conditions. “There is no need for industrial composting facilities or tight control of moisture and temperature,” the company says.

The range of enzymated biodegradable plastics under development at Carbios includes polymers that are partly or fully made from biobased materials. The company says its products “not only match to the immediately enforceable provisions of the planned decree but also to those that shall be enforced at a later date. Especially, according to the draft legal text released, the minimal percentage of biosourced materials in the composition of the permitted plastic bags shall increase from 30% in 2017 up to 60% in 2025.”

Jean-Claude Lumaret, CEO of Carbios, says, “Our unique technology allows for a zero-waste offering and provides unprecedented business opportunities. It helps the plastic industry to face with increasingly stringent regulation, reinforce its competitiveness and increase its product appeal for the consumers.”

France’s move is in advance of a European Union directive that calls for EU member states to reduce annual average plastic bag consumption to 90 lightweight bags per citizen by the end of 2019 and to 40 by the end of 2025 or to ensure that by the end of 2018, retailers no longer give away these bags to shoppers.

Additionally, the European Commission must assess the environmental impact of oxo-degradable plastic materials, which fragment into small particles, and propose suitable measures. By 2017, the European Commission will have to propose labelling and marking measures for an EU-wide recognition of biodegradable and compostable plastic bags.

According to the EU, plastic bags thinner than 50 microns are less reusable than thicker bags, become waste more quickly and are prone to litter the environment and pollute aquatic ecosystems.

In 2010 EU citizens used an estimated 198 plastic carrier bags per person, some 90 percent of which were lightweight, the European Commission says, adding that an estimated 8 billion plastic carrier bags became litter in the EU in 2010.

Some organisations have proposed a ban they say will improve plastics recycling.

PlasticsEurope is urging the EU to institute such a ban, while the Turkish Plastics Industry Foundation, Pagev, based in Istanbul, is urging the Turkish government to do the same thing.

According to published reports, Pagev sees the potential for such a ban to improve recycling and to provide new sources of plastic in an area that currently depends on imported raw materials.