- Critics argue the wood boxes are more beneficial for the environment than the plastic alternative
France has become cheesed off at an EU camembert packaging rule that could see the majority of the round wooden boxes used to carry the type of cheese since the 19th century become illegal.
A fierce debate has erupted following the proposal to sync packaging across the bloc with a requirement for it to be recyclable by 2030.
Critics have highlighted what they argue would be the prohibitive cost of recycling the wood boxes, which they say are less harmful for the environment than the plastic alternative.
Chairman of the French Heritage Foundation, Guillaume Poitrinal, spoke of ‘the madness of bureaucracy’, noting: ‘The wooden box — low carbon, light, biodegradable, made in France — is better for the planet than plastic made with Saudi oil, transformed in China with coal-powered electricity and which will end up in the oceans.’
Claire Lacroix, chief executive of Lacroix, a company that manufactures boxes for the country’s largest camembert producer, said: ‘Light wood packaging accounts for 0.001 per cent of household packaging waste. It would be too expensive to put in place a sorting and recycling scheme for it. It would be 200 times more expensive than for glass.’
Camembert in its traditional round wood box. Critics have highlighted what they argue would be the prohibitive cost of recycling these boxes, which they say are more beneficial for the environment than the plastic alternative
The EU parliament is set to vote on the proposal next week.
Pro-Europeans said that Brussels had agreed to block traditionally made artisan cheeses from its packaging proposal, meaning that they would be allowed to retain their wooden boxes.
Pro-European daily newspaper Le Monde said diary firms that make industrial camembert, who would avoid exemption under the current terms, were forming opposition to the plan.
The newspaper argued that consumers find it difficult to tell the difference between artisan and industrial camembert but added that this would become clearer when the latter were packaged in plastic and the former in poplar wood.
France purchased 45,148 tons of camembert last year, most of which was industrially made.
Only around 6,000 tons featured the protected designation of origin label that is given to the artisanal variety.
France’s European affairs minister, Laurence Boone, said the measure could anger rural voters ahead of EU elections in June (File Photo)
MEPs in the European Parliament yesterday brought in amendments to protect camembert’s round wooden containers from the scope of the EU Bill.
However, the Commission insisted that the rules did not include anything that would ban the boxes.
‘The wooden boxes used to package cheeses like camembert don’t have a dedicated recycling circuit because it would be too costly to create a logistic chain,’ said Stephanie Yon-Courtin, an MEP originally from Normandy.
The amendment would also cover the nation’s Mont d’Or cheese, as well as the wooden baskets carrying berries and oysters sold in French markets.
France’s European affairs minister, Laurence Boone, said the measure could anger rural voters ahead of EU elections in June.
‘If you want to caricature Europe before the election, you start by annoying camembert producers and their wooden packaging … that makes everybody sit up,’ she said.