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What Was the First Country to Ban Plastic Plates and Cutlery?

11 January, 23

In an effort to reduce the plastic waste accumulating in oceans and landfills, many countries around the world have sought to limit the use of single-use plastics. Plastic plates and cutlery are particularly problematic as they are designed for single use and often end up in landfills or dumped into oceans. As such, many countries have opted to impose bans or taxes on plastic plates and cutlery.

The first country to impose a complete ban on items like plastic plates and cutlery was Italy, which began phasing out single-use items in January 2020. This ban was followed by France in July 2020, which imposed a similar ban with some minor exceptions for certain disposable products made from biodegradable materials. Following France’s lead, over 30 other countries have adopted similar bans or partial restrictions aimed at reducing plastic waste from these common products.

The Italian ban focused primarily on plastic food packaging and utensils for restaurants such as straws, forks, knives and spoons that must now be made of biodegradable material. The law also stipulated that biodegradable plastic bags must contain no more than two layers of material which could slow down their disintegration over time; this law also extended to shopping bags commonly found at grocery stores. In addition to banning these materials in restaurants across the country, Italy also placed restrictions on roadside vendors who may still sell beverages with a limited number of disposable items allowed per customer transaction (e.g., one straw per drink). 

History of Plastic Plates and Cutlery

Plastic plates and cutlery have been widely used for decades but it wasn’t until recently that the harmful environmental impacts of them have come to light. In 2019, France became the first country to ban plastic plates and cutlery as part of an effort to reduce plastic waste. Since then, many other countries have followed suit and banned these single-use plastic items.

Let's explore the history of plastic plates and cutlery and how this came to be. 

Rise in Popularity

The production of plastic plates and cutlery became increasingly popular in the 1950s, with advancements in injection molding allowing for mass manufacturing. This made it possible to produce wide varieties of shapes and sizes to suit different dining needs.

These utensils are attractive because they are lightweight and inexpensive; they can also often be disposed of after one use, eliminating the need to clean them or purchase more expensive dishwasher-safe items. The plastic industry advertises that these products reduce stretching power costs and water consumption, making them an appealing convenience item for restaurants and catering companies.

Plastic plates and cutlery come in a number of styles, including clear and colored products made from polystyrene, polypropylene, or polycarbonate materials. They can contain anti-static or anti-glare agents as well as UV inhibitors to preserve the look of their products over time. While these products allow for convenience in many situations, their environmental impact has sparked much discussion around the world. 

Environmental Impact

Plastic plates, cutlery and other plastic tableware have a major environmental impact since the majority of this type of waste is not recycled or reused. This issue has increasingly come to the forefront in recent years, with organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and governmental bodies like the European Union highlighting the immense damage that plastic tableware can cause.

When not disposed of properly, plastic plates, cutlery and other related items can clog landfills, get trapped in drainage systems, leach harmful chemicals into ecosystems and harm animals. Plastic products also remain in their current form for hundreds of years before naturally breaking down—a process which produces even more toxic substances that are detrimental to both wildlife and human health.

Manufacturers have invested heavily in developing sustainable solutions to dramatically reduce our reliance on harmful plastic products. These new materials are often much slower to degrade than traditional plastics but offer a viable alternative with far less environmental impact than traditional options. For example bamboo-based disposable tableware provides a natural fibrous material easy to compost leaving near zero environmental footprint behind. In addition to this reusable options such as ceramic plates, stainless steel cutlery and handcrafted wood utensils offer great advantages over traditional disposable or single-use plastics while reducing our dependence on these materials even further. 

The First Country to Ban Plastic Plates and Cutlery

In 2019, France became one of the first countries to take action against single-use plastics, such as plates and cutlery. On July 1st, France officially implemented its ban on disposable plastic plates and cutlery to reduce plastic waste. France was the first country to implement such a ban and other countries have quickly followed suit.

This article will discuss the reason behind the ban and its implications. 


In 2020, France became the first country in the world to implement a nationwide ban on plastic plates and cutlery in an effort to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics. The ban was part of a larger piece of legislation aiming at curbing the use and production of plastic products by 2040.

Under this new regulation, disposable plastic plates, knives, forks, spoons and stirrers cannot be provided to customers or used in restaurants anymore. Companies must switch to more sustainable alternatives including reusable items made out of bamboo or bioplastics as well as compostable replacements such as palm leaf plates and wheat straw cutlery that are easier for the environment.

The move has been applauded by environmental groups, who see it as an effective way to reduce unnecessary waste and shift attention towards green initiatives that ensure a sustainable future for all. This bold step from France on plastic is expected to set a new trend across Europe and beyond. 

Other Countries

Since 2002, a growing number of countries have followed the lead of France in enacting bans on the use of single-use plastics in service industries. As the focus on environmental conservation and sustainability grows around the world, initiatives to reduce disposable plastic usage are increasing as well.

In 2009, Italy banned disposable plastic plates and cutlery from restaurants, requiring them to supply reusable cutlery instead. China banned single-use plastics from meals served at government buildings in 2011. In 2018, India announced a nationwide ban on single-use plastic items such as bags and straws. The European Union also proposed measures this year to ban single-use plastic products such as straws, cups and cutlery throughout its member states by 2021.

Other countries have adopted more specific restrictions on certain types of plastic tableware. Germany passed a law in 2011 that banned polystyrene containers used by fast-food outlets such as McDonald’s and Burger King, while Russia began restricting businesses from using polystyrene foam dishes in 2012. In 2013, South Korea became the first country to outlaw all disposable plastic utensils like forks and knives completely.

As governments become increasingly aware of their responsibility to protect public health and the environment, more are likely to follow suit in banning various forms of disposable waste like plates and cutlery made out of plastics that cannot be recycled or composted easily within their jurisdictions. 


The usage of single use plastic items has far reaching and detrimental effects on our environment, from marine life to human health. In an effort to reduce pollution and protect their citizens, many countries have taken steps to slowly phase out the usage of disposable plastic items.

Currently, the first country to ban plastic plates and cutlery was France, which announced a national ban in 2020. As more countries pledge their commitment to reduce single-use plastic consumption and provide incentives for citizens who opt for sustainable materials instead of plastic, we can remain optimistic that our planet will begin to benefit from a healthier climate.



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