Eco Volontaire International - To protect biodiversity around the world
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Plastic bags: their impact animals’ health and new French legislation for this market

The annual plastic production is estimated to 300 million of tonnes worldwide, of which 10% (30 millions of tonnes) ends in the oceans. The oceans pollution due to plastic waste is not a recent phenomenon since the plastic consumption started in the 20th century. Four out of five plastic wastes are from continents and the last part comes from marine activities.

The noxiousness of plastic bags on fauna

Amongst the wastes in the oceans are plastic bags, especially those considered as non-reusable.

plastique

Not too long ago in France, they were found at shops cashiers, were free and had the aim of carrying our groceries. They are devoted to massive waste and cause major damages in terms of pollution. Best case scenario they are thrown in the trash, worst case scenario they end up in nature. Because they are light, they fly, migrate and often end their itinerary in the ocean.

As any other type of plastic waste they are harmful for your health or the survival of any fauna as they are often eaten by birds, marine mammals or fish… the consequences are often deadly for these animals.

Here are some examples:

risks of suffocation for turtles who get confused between bags and jellyfish

risks of death due to the absorption of plastics: the stomach is saturated by these wastes and cannot feed anymore.

 

Baleine de Cuvier découverte avec 30 sacs en plastique dans l'estomac, Norvège

© Université de Bergen

A recent and sadly remarkable story is the one from the Cuvier whaler which beached several times at the end of January on Sotra Island and had to be euthanized after major sufferings. The autopsy revealed that over 30 plastic bags in her stomach and suffered from malnutrition. Unfortunately, this one case is far from being an exception and represents the many dangers for animals around wastes.

New legislation in France on non-reusable plastic bags consumption:

In the last few years, new legislation in France have emerged, ruling on the distribution of plastic bags.

These new laws only concern disposable plastic bags, meaning only thin bags (thickness below 50 microns) and non-compostable. They slowly disappeared from supermarkets until their prohibition on July 1st 2016. On January 1st 2017 the prohibition was extended to bags for fruits and vegetables as well as bulk.

Other products containing plastic will soon be prohibited:

  • Cosmetics with plastic microbeads (January 1st 2018)
  • Q-tips (2020)
  • Disposable dishes (2020)

Be active: alternatives to plastic 

Concerning grocery bags, several alternatives are possible and for many very pragmatic: biodegradable plastic bags, fabric bags, paper bags, baskets… and if you forget yours at home, you can generally find an alternative at the cashier.

At the bulk shelves or fruits and vegetables, bags must be compostable bags with a minimal content of organic material. This minimal content today (2017) is 30% and will increase to 60% in 2025. It is possible to use reusable bags such as cotton bags which you can either sew or buy in some shops.

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