It's official! As of January 1st, 2011 plastic bags have been banned in Italy and those who risk using them will face the consequences. Italy is not the first country to place bans on harmful plastic bags nor do they have the harshest penalties. In America, many supermarkets and grocery stores are starting to weed out plastic bags by giving customers incentives to bring in their own reusable shopping bags. Some stores have gone so far as placing a penalty charge onto your purchases if you use plastic instead of a "greener" option. Others have done away with bags altogether such as Auldi's stores in Pennsylvania who ring up your purchases and put them right into your cart for you to take to your car.
Parts of Australia, India, South Africa and Taiwan have also placed bans on the use of plastic bags. Environment Minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, said of Italy's plan to ban, "It marks a step forward of fundamental importance in the fight against pollution, making us all more responsible for using and recycling. For the law to give positive results, it is necessary that all the commercial entrepreneurs, large or small, and citizens get involved and experiment with alternatives to plastic bags."
According to Planet Ark, Italians are responsible for one fifth of the bags used in Europe with over 20 billion plastic bags being used in Italy a year- that's 330 plastic bags per person. Legambiente, an Italian environmentalist lobby, believes that if everyone used 10 bio-degradable bags per year 180,000 tons of gasoline would be saved.
Tanzania seems to have the toughest penalties for shopkeepers who sell plastic bags to customers. Violators in the country can expect a six month jail sentence and a fine of 1.5 million shillings ($1,137) if they are caught. So far the penalties for shopkeepers in Italy who refuse to comply with the new ban have not been mentioned. It has been stated that shopkeepers are allowed to use plastic bags they already have in stock until their supply runs out as long as they can provide proof that they have ordered bio-degradable bags for future use.
(article originally published on Jan. 5, 2011)