Why Italy Banned The Use Of Plastic Shopping Bags In 2011

Italy banned the use of plastic shopping bags on the first day of 2011 in an unprecedented move designed to restore the economy and save the environment. Not all shopping bags were banned, however, only polyethylene bags. Retailers could still offer consumers paper bags, biodegradable plastic bags, or cloth bags.

Despite the industry opposition that has stalled all efforts to ban plastic bags since December 2006, Stefania Prestigiacomo, the Environmental Minister pushed the blanket plastic bag ban forward.

There are numerous reasons why it was necessary to ban plastic shopping bags in order to save environmental resources and reduce spiraling economic costs. Plastic shopping bags, in particular polyethylene bags, have consumed hundreds of barrels of oil to manufacture thus diverting a valuable natural resource that could be put to better use. In addition, the bags cost a staggering amount to dispose of each year, not to mention the cost to the environment, which includes clogging drains and machinery. Finally, apart from littering the landscape, plastic bags also caused the decimation of marine and bird populations.

The move to ban plastic bags has made huge waves in Italy and Europe because Italy, according to Legambiente, an Italian environmental group, has been a top user of plastic shopping bags in Europe, using about one-fifth of all polyethylene bags in Europe. The average Italian uses 330 bags a year and the country, as a whole, uses 20 billion bags each year.

Hailing the ban as a revolution, Stefano Ciafani, scientific chief of Legambiente, said it would result in a noticeable use of biodegradable materials. No other European country has been able to achieve such a landmark change, although Ireland did impose a tax of 15-euro cents in 2002, which resulted in a 90 percent reduction of shopping plastic bags within the first week. In addition to a countrywide ban throughout Italy, Ciafani, also pointed out that 200 out of 8,000 municipalities had also introduced their own ban on plastic bags.

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Tags: ban plastic shopping bags, countrywide ban, decimation of marine and bird populations, Environmental Minister, Italian environmental group, Italy Banned Plastic Shopping Bags, Legambiente, polyethylene bags, restore the economy, save the environment, Stefania Prestigiacomo, Stefano Ciafani

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