Italy, one of the top users of plastic shopping bags in Europe, has banned them, with retailers warning of chaos and many stores braced for the switch.
Italian critics say
polyethylene bags use too much oil to produce, take too long to break down,
clog drains and easily spread to become eye sores and environmental hazards.
use about 20 billion bags a year -- more than 330 per person -- or about
one-fifth of the total used in Europe,
according to Italian environmentalist lobby Legambiente.
Beginning this past Saturday, Jan. 1, Italian retailers are banned from providing shoppers
polyethylene bags. They can use bags made of such material as biodegradable
plastic, cloth or paper.
European countries have tried voluntary schemes to cut plastic bag use, such as
promoting reusable cotton bags. In 2002 Ireland
imposed a levy on bags of 15 euro cents (20 U.S. cents) that cut use by 90
percent within a week.
are talking of a revolution that is already under way," Legambiente
scientific chief Stefano Ciafani said of the shift to biodegradable bags.
hundred municipalities out of Italy's
8,000 have introduced their own plastic bag bans, including the cities of Turin and Venice,
Ciafani said. Many
supermarket chains have started using biodegradable bags for shoppers even if
not on a nationwide basis, Legambiente says on its website.
on the bag ban was set in December 2006 with an original deadline of January
2010. The halt was delayed because of industry opposition but was pushed
through by Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo in a blanket decree last
Italy's rubber and plastics federation
estimated the cost of changing over machines to make biodegradable bags was
30,000 euros ($39,440) to 50,000 euros per plant.
Read the full article by Nigel Tutt
Italy bans plastic bags
January 5, 2011