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why France remains addicted to its 15 billion polystyrene yogurt pots

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Jimmy Pahun is deputy (MoDem) of Morbihan. Before embarking on politics, he was a navigator: an AG2R transatlantic race won with Alain Gautier, a sailing tour of France and ten victories at the Spi Ouest-France. The man who discovered the extent of plastic pollution while sailing the seas was planning to add a line to his list: the ban on polystyrene packaging.

The stakes are high: they are found in most of the 15 billion pots of yogurt bought (and thrown away) each year in France, which end up in the vast majority at best incinerated, at worst in nature. Polystyrene illustrates this protean threat against which States finally seem determined to act. The principle of an international treaty on the broader problem of plastic pollution was validated in March under the aegis of the United Nations and a first round of negotiations opened on November 28 in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Deputy Pahun will not be part of the French delegation. He toured parliamentarians and newsrooms to defend his “proposed bill to fight against plastics that are dangerous for the environment and health”hammering that“In 2050, the ocean will have more plastic than fish” and alerting on the specific threat of polystyrene, this “toxic material that constitutes more than a third of the plastics found in the environment”.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Beginning of intergovernmental negotiations on the international treaty against plastic pollution

The ace. The bill was scuttled by his own camp. Admittedly, it was adopted discreetly on October 6 at first reading by the deputies, but after having been emptied of its substance. Exit any reference to polystyrene. At the request of the elected members of the presidential majority, the first article aimed “to ban food packaging made of polystyrene from 1er January 2025 » has been completely rewritten: are now affected by the ban “non-recyclable single-use plastic packaging”. A nuance that changes everything because polystyrene packaging is now theoretically “recyclable” even if in fact less than 2% is recycled in factories in Germany and Spain.

“Intense lobbying of the plastics industry »

“It is a very strong disappointment and a very strong misunderstanding”reacts Henri Bourgeois-Costa, in charge of advocacy at the Tara Ocean Foundation, who had worked on the bill. “The government did not want the ban”, says one in the entourage of the deputy. “The government and my party made me understand that we could not change the law in the middle of the road”, testifies Jimmy Pahun. As part of the review of the climate and resilience bill, in 2021, the MP had already tabled an amendment to ban polystyrene. He had this time been challenged by the Senate.

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