Landmark French law will stop unsold goods being thrown away

France is banning designer clothes and luxury goods companies from destroying unsold or returned items under a wide-ranging anti-waste law passed by parliament recently. The groundbreaking law, which the French government claims is a world first, also covers electrical items, hygiene products, and cosmetics, which must now be reused, redistributed or recycled. It also phases out the use of paper till receipts and single-use plastics and encourages pharmacies to sell certain medications in individual doses.

The bill, containing 130 articles, was finally adopted after the Assemblée Nationale – which passed it nine days ago – and the upper house, the Sénat, reached an agreement. France already has a law banning supermarkets from throwing away unsold food and forcing them to hand the goods to charities.

The anti-waste and circular economy bill require producers, importers and distributors, including online firms such as Amazon, to donate unsold non-food goods except those that pose a health or safety risk. It aims for all plastic to be recyclable by 2025 and a 50% reduction in the use of single-use plastic bottles in the next decade. Fast-food restaurants and takeaways will have to stop using plastic containers by 2023 at the latest.

Prime minister Édouard Philippe’s office said more than €650m worth of new consumer products were destroyed or thrown away every year in France. In a “polluter pays” clause, companies will be required to finance the destruction of waste that they create. This requires tobacco manufacturers to pay for the disposal of cigarette butts from next year and affects those making toys, sports goods, DIY and garden products, and building materials from 2021.


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