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France to completely banish the production of single-use plastics by 2020

How one European country is taking the plastic bull by the horns and innovating its way to a greener future.

It is estimated that 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually, with at least eight million tonnes ending up in our oceans.

Each piece of plastic will take hundreds of years to decompose, taking up space in landfills, poisoning bodies of water, land, and both marine and land-based animals alike.

The European Union (EU) is allegedly working on a ban of all single-use plastics, including straws, takeaway cups, balloons, plates and even cotton buds, in order to tackle the issue of plastic-based waste.

France has already embraced this ban, aiming to completely banish the production of these single-use plastics by 2020.

"Here in France, we have approximately one to five billion [tonnes of plastic]. That's huge," says environmental campaigner Arash Derambarsh. "We passed a law in France in 2015, that supermarkets aren't allowed to sell plastic bags of a certain size in supermarkets and certain shops. Why? Because we're trying to generate an ecological revolution."

Across the country, startups are now capitalising on the opportunity to fill this niche with a whole range of bio-plastics. These include plastic produced from seaweed and algae, sugarcane and even milk - designed to try and replace harmful oil-based plastics.

Using biological materials allows these new plastic products to decompose over shorter time periods after use, in some cases, cutting decomposition time from more than 500 years to a mere four months.

Although it remains early days for many of these developments, this signals the start of an alternative plastic revolution where plastics can be created from a surprisingly unusual array of natural materials.

Nicholas Moufflet is an engineer who developed a "vegan bottle" made from sugarcane. The bottles have been a success, with orders for two million in 2017 alone, and higher expectations for 2018.

While production prices - the bottles cost 25 percent more to produce than traditional plastics - remain a concern and a challenge for Moufflet and other natural plastics producers in France and worldwide, the end result is worth it. 

But is it realistic to think we can stop using plastic completely?

"Yes, but it's going to take time," says Derambarsh. "For that to happen it's going to have to be a global movement of citizens and policymakers and also businesses because the lobbyists have a lot of influence. So it is necessary for policymakers to tell the lobbyists, 'no, but we will help you to do something else'."  


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