In France’s cardboard factories, the machines are running at full speed. The reason: On January 1, a new law will come into force that will ban plastic packaging for almost all fruit and vegetable products.
Cardboard instead of plastic: Many packaging manufacturers, such as the Gasny company in northern Normandy, have adapted their production to the new requirements.
Their director, Marc de Fougeroux, guides them through the facility. “I’m going to show you the processing machine here. We take the cardboard, cut, fold and glue and then make these packages. We get a finished product that comes straight out of the machine. This product is for a potato producer.”
“There’s still 3% we need to work on”
Our second visit leads to DS Smith in Puteaux, near Paris, one of the European market leaders with 30,000 employees in 30 countries. The group has invested more than 100 million euros in research and development of sustainable alternatives to plastic.
Armand Chaigne, Director of Industrial Markets, explains: “97% of our packaging, which is representative of what is happening in the cardboard industry in Europe, is recyclable. There is still 3% that we have to work on.
I’ll give you a concrete example: We have online retail packaging with a tear strip. This tear strip is currently still made of plastic. We have to replace him.”
Plastic packaging for fatty products
Armand Chaigne confirms that packaging for ready meals, which is not compatible with carton packaging, remains a major challenge.
“We are focusing our attention mainly on plastic packaging for fatty products, for example salad with sauce. Ready meals are another issue for which we need to find solutions.
Save more than a billion pieces of plastic packaging annually
Around 37 percent of the fruit and vegetables sold in French supermarkets are currently shrink-wrapped or packaged in plastic. This corresponds to a third of all fruit and vegetable goods.
With the ban, the French government wants to save more than a billion plastic packaging a year.
The regulation is to be gradually extended to more and more products – and from 2026 no more fruit and vegetables may be sold in plastic.