Orange defends use of divisive ‘plastic’ telegraph poles in France

The poles are more durable than the wooden ones they have replaced, insists the telecoms giant

The poles started being installed in Charente in May
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French telecoms operator Orange has started rolling out plastic telegraph poles, which it claims have less environmental impact than traditional wooden ones.

The posts, which sound hollow and have a shiny brown appearance, are arguably less aesthetically pleasing than the wooden ones they are designed to look like.

They started appearing in the Charente countryside in late May – just as the French government was hosting an international conference to look at ways the world can reduce plastic use. There are also some in Gironde.

Orange said they were using them everywhere “as appropriate.”

The firm told The Connexion by email that it did not consider the posts, made of a composite of fibreglass and resin, to be plastic.

It later clarified that they were made of fibreglass, printed polyester fabric and heat-cured polyester resin.

Many online sources, including the British Plastics Federation and European Environment Agency refer to polyester as a kind of plastic; like many other plastics it ultimately derives from crude oil.

Orange claimed one composite post, which should last for 50 years, replaces two wooden ones and, because they do not have to be treated as wooden ones do, they are better for the environment.

They produce 25% less CO2 than wooden posts over their lifespan, it added.

Read also: Orange given go-ahead to decommission copper telephone lines in France

Most of the existing telegraph poles in Charente are wooden, although around 20 years ago France Télécom switched to using both metal and wooden posts when old ones were replaced.

Orange’s biggest single shareholder remains the French state, which has 26% of its shares and takes an active part in the nomination of senior executives.

Christophe Béchu, Minister for Ecological Transition and Cohesion, did not respond to an interview request about the new poles.

The Ecology Ministry set up a website section in May explaining how it was working to reduce the use of plastics and urging citizens to do the same.

The site does not mention the new telegraph poles and whether the government thinks they are an exception to the battle against plastic use.

Read also: France’s president wants to cut plastic pollution. How can I help?

We approached several French environmental charities for comment. We will update this article if responses are received.

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