Environment. Obligatory, but… where have the water fountains gone?

Environment.  Obligatory, but… where have the water fountains gone?

When will the plastic water bottle disappear from our daily lives for good? Theoretically, the end of single-use plastic is planned for 2040 in France, in accordance with the anti-waste law (Agec) of 2020. An objective which seems very distant, knowing that France is the fifth largest consumer of plastic water bottles in the world. “In terms of volume, it’s completely crazy. However, the more volume there is, the greater the risk of pollution,” underlines Muriel Papin, general delegate of the association. No Plastic In My Sea.

The water bottle is indeed the single-use plastic waste most found on European beaches. Beyond the harmful effects of this packaging on the environment, we do not yet know how the tiny plastic particles it contains affect our health. So much reason for Muriel Papin to do without it.

An increase instead of a decrease

The Agec law plans to reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles placed on the market by 50% by 2030. Except that between 2021 and 2022, their volume has… increased by 4%. The text voted in 2020 nevertheless introduced several measures to achieve the desired objective, such as the end of the free distribution of plastic bottles at work or the development of water points in establishments open to the public (ERP).

For two years now, ERPs welcoming more than 300 people, such as train stations, shopping centers, cultural spaces, or even sports facilities, must be equipped with at least one water fountain. This must be accessible free of charge and made visible by signage. For the general delegate of No Plastic In My Sea this provision is not anecdotal: “It facilitates the use of the water bottle and avoids that of the plastic bottle”, the risk of pollution of which “is increased when you are outside” because it can easily fly away or because there is no trash can available.

Three quarters do not respect the law

The problem is that, according to Muriel Papin, the government never checked whether this measure was respected. His association therefore decided to carry out the investigation , by carrying out checks in 218 EPRs located throughout France in December. Results: 75% of establishments visited did not have a water point. Rather satisfactory in sports establishments and schools, the equipment rate was particularly low in transport. In more than 8 out of 10 cases, no water fountain was available in the controlled metro and SNCF stations.

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When they exist, water points are not always suitable (no free access, hot water, dimensions that do not fit a water bottle, etc.) and are rarely reported. Faced with this “very disappointing state of affairs”, No Plastic In My Sea makes several recommendations. In addition to “a sequenced action plan” aimed at reducing plastic bottles placed on the market by 10% per year on average until 2030, the association calls for “visibility of water points” available. It proposes to create, on the British model, a national map of water fountains as well as common signage.

Muriel Papin especially denounces the “tolerance of the government”. She calls on him to put in place controls and sanctions, as permitted by the Agec law. Especially since this is not the only measure in the text not to be correctly applied. The association manager hopes that by the summer and the Olympic Games, water fountains will have grown all over the country.

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