“Too late to panic”: UK retailers rush to avoid heavy fines under new French labeling laws
02 Feb 2023 --- France is implementing a law that requires every business selling food and drink products in supermarkets to add new recycling logos. The law officially began in September, but companies were given a grace period until March this year.
The new logo features “Triman,” – tri translates to sorting in French. The logo has to be put on all items to inform consumers that the product or packaging needs to be sorted or brought to a recycling point. The law also mandates that QR codes are added that give shoppers detailed packaging and recycling information.
According to the trade department, the French government initially warned British exporters of the rules last October. However, British F&B retailers are reportedly scrambling with the new law, claiming they were not adequately informed.
Kevin Dixie, the co-founder of Buyerdock, a food-tech company providing QR labeling solutions that assist British packaging manufacturers in abiding by the new rules, tells PackagingInsights, “we’ve found that around 99% of brands on Buyerdock have not heard about the law.”
Logos for less waste
The law was implemented under Article 17 of the French AGEC Law. Products not in compliance during the grace period can still be sold but will be removed from shelves in March.
“I think the regulations are a good thing. I have seen the change in the way French citizens care about recycling. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that they really care about Triman logos and actively seek them out. Many have a number of apps to scan different QR codes. [The French] have always been ahead of the UK,” says Dixie.
Once in effect, exporters could face fines of up to €15,000 (US$16,490) per product line if their packages do not comply with the law.
“From real-life experience on Buyerdock, we are now seeing more brands consciously creating less waste with packaging as our web app displays the required recycle information in both French and Italian, and it seems to have sparked an effort to produce less harmful packaging and seek better solutions for their consumers,” he continues.
French legislation mentions a few exceptions to products that need to add the logo, such as glass beverage bottles and small packaging that could be exempt or subject to slightly different labeling solutions.
UK businesses feel left in the dark, rushing to meet the requirements, while the French government contradicts this belief. “We’ve spoken with five global corporates who today have not even started with the process,” explains Dixie.
The French minister of ecology, Bérangère Couillard, is currently performing press calls and checking Triman logos in superstores. Dixie predicts this could help outside counties, such as the UK, to catch up with the law requirements.
On the other hand, the French government insists it has properly communicated to outside countries that the law would be officially in effect this March. “We have taken several steps to ensure UK firms and business groups were made aware of these changes, including a dedicated webinar in November and various other communication through the department for international trade (DIT) channels,” says a government spokesman.
Dixie compares the lack of awareness British retailers are feeling now regarding the French logo law to similar laws in Italy that have been enforced on F&B packaging retailers starting January 1, 2023.
“It seems that the marketing of the law has been mainly based in France, aiming at French companies (interestingly, the same in Italy). This law and the Italian law have blind-sided most companies, they need to replace all current stock with legal packaging urgently. It feels like the messages from governments need to be stronger to the brands.”
Dixie says Buyerdock is working now with the DIT and Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) in the UK Government to educate their respective teams and then the brands and companies that sell in France and Italy. UK companies are signing up to Buyerdock and currently over-labeling products with its QR code to be compliant fast.
“Governments need to get a tight grip on circular economy laws and educate brands faster. These laws have been coming for years, it’s too late to panic after they become live,” expresses Dixie.
Call for universal EU logos
To avoid the situation occurring between the UK and France, Dixie suggests all countries in the EU come together to produce one consistent law using the same logos across the entire trade block.
“Right now, the EU has set the law, and each country is doing it their own way.”
“This is the main reason we have built the tech to deliver the correct logos in France and Italy by simply asking a couple of questions to the brand. We will do the same with each new country-specific law and deliver the information for many countries in one space. Brands are not going to want to put 40 plus recycle logos on a single product, so QR code is really the only way forward,” concludes Dixie.
By Sabine Waldeck
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