Summary of the Advice
The environmental impact of the fruits and vegetables bags comes from:
- their manufacture, use and end-of-life management (recycling, incineration, composting, storage, etc.)
- their potential litter in the environment.
Several actions are possible to reduce this environmental impact and the risks of litter:
- give priority to reusable bags and maximize their re-use.
- pay for the provision of bags of fruit and vegetable packaging, and more generally all bags
- reduce material consumption by reducing the thickness of bags
- choose more environmentally friendly raw materials
Regardless of the characteristics of the bag, ADEME recommends noting “do not throw in the environment” and no longer use the term “biodegradable” in communications to the general public to avoid confusion.
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Press Release of Ademe
ADEME published an opinion on the environmental impact of fruit and vegetable packaging bags offered in food stores. This impact has its source in their manufacture, their use, their management at the end of their life and their eventual abandonment in nature. ADEME recommends paying for their availability and favoring reusable bags.
Since 1 st January 2017, traders can no longer offer disposable plastic bags unless they are biobased and compostable in home composting. Moreover, the presence of the mention “biodegradable” on some of these bags could mislead the consumer, the latter too often considering that it can be thrown into the nature without consequence.
For example, the Agency recommends that this statement be removed and that “Do not throw in the environment” be specified on all bags.
Reduction of impact through behavioral changes that are easy to implement
The environmental impact of packaging bags could be reduced with the implementation of good practices such as the effective reuse of reusable bags.
Indeed, a bag intended to be reused but is not will have a greater thickness and therefore more impact on the environment.
In order for the re-use to be real, the design of the bag must take into account its practicality, its resistance, the ease of cleaning it (in a washing machine for example for the cloth bags), the ease of opening / closing, the useful volume .
This will lead the user to pay more attention to the usefulness of taking a bag and help promote the reuse of these bags.
This recommendation can be extended to all bags made available at all points of sale.
Good practices to put in place for compostable bags
Domestically compostable fruit and vegetable bags are only used in cases where good composting practices are followed, otherwise biodegradation is not satisfactory and pieces of plastic or paper remain in the compost.
For a perfect composting, the ADEME recommends a strict respect of the instructions applicable to the compost as the brewing, a sufficient rate of humidity and in a container envisaged for this closed effect.
In case of doubt about the respect of these good conditions, the ADEME recommends not to put the bag at home composting.
- For citizens who benefit from a collection of bio-waste, these compostable bags can be reused inside the bioseaux (small buckets for organic waste), thus avoiding the use of new bags.
- In the case where the sorting of bio-waste is not provided for by the municipality, the Agency recommends that these compostable bags be sorted according to the local instructions, in the sorting bin or otherwise the “classic” bin.
The French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) participates in the implementation of public policies in the fields of environment, energy and sustainable development.