FRANCE’S REUSABLE REVOLUTION
In 2020, the French government issued a ban on single-use tableware for fast food restaurants, giving a transition deadline of January 2023. Since coming due, an eco revolution has been unfolding.
France has roughly 30,000 fast-food outlets serving some six billion meals per year. These restaurants generate an estimated 180,000 tons of single-use waste each year in the form of boxes, cups, forks, and more. Environmental groups have reported that over half (55 percent) of this waste comes from dine-in packaging.
In pursuit of reducing this waste and increasing recycling, the French government passed legislation requiring any restaurant with more than 20 dine-in seats — including global chains like Burger King, McDonald’s, and Starbucks — to replace their throwaway tableware with washable cups, plates, and cutlery. French environmentalists have called this change “a complete paradigm shift.”
“We’re extremely happy that this is finally coming into force,” said Alice Elfassi, head of legal affairs for the nongovernmental organization Zero Waste France. “Although single-use plastic had already been banned, it had been replaced by large amounts of throwaway products like cardboard, wood, bamboo, which we consider an unacceptable waste of resources.”
Zero Waste France and other groups are pressuring the government to monitor how well each business meets the requirements, including enforcement fines and checking up on which type of reusable materials are put in place. “Most fast-food restaurants won’t switch to classic, long-wearing glass or china that lasts years,” Elfassi said. “They will opt for hard plastic and we have concerns about its durability – will it withstand hundreds of washes or will it be thrown out after only a few? We’ll be vigilant on that.”
McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants have been adopting reusable containers with the familiar shape, color, and logo of their disposable counterparts. The main challenges each business faces are finding space to add dishwashers, and maintaining staff who can make sure customers don’t throw containers in the bin or take them home.
Four French environmental groups published an open letter urging customers to avoid any fast-food restaurants they notice aren’t upholding the new law.
50 YEARS OF WILDLIFE PROTECTION
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973 and has successfully prevented the extinction of hundreds of wildlife species and promoted the recovery of thousands more.
The Center of Biological Diversity, a nonprofit aimed toward “saving life on Earth,” reports that the ESA has protected more than 1,600 species of animals, plants, and insects in the U.S. and prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species listed in the Act. Some of the species that have been successfully removed from the Threatened or Endangered lists include American alligators, gray wolves, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and humpback whales. It’s estimated that without the ESA, more than 220 species would likely have gone extinct since 1973. There have also been remarkable recovery rates in an additional 110 protected species.
The ESA also has global impacts on protecting wildlife. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is a worldwide conservation agreement which regulates the trading of Threatened species. The ESA is instrumental in enforcing this agreement and has helped protect creatures like giant pandas and several species of tiger, among others.
A crucial factor to remember is that the ESA, managed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, depends on public funding. In facing habitat loss, climate change, and disease, many species listed in the Act have not recovered as expected, and without adequate funding the ESA can help only so much.
With a legacy of 50 years of conservation, the Endangered Species Act continues to strive for protecting and rehabilitating the incredible plant and animal life in the U.S.
Sources: Good News Network, EarthTalk