Italy Enacts Plastic Bag Ban

The country becomes the first in Europe with a nationwide prohibition against plastic bags.
January 10, 2011

ROME - On Jan. 1, Italy??s ban on plastic bags went into effect, making that country the first in Europe with such a prohibition, reports. Italian stores used 20 billion plastic bags annually.

The ban allows stores to use up their stock of plastic bags, but after that, retailers have to offer biodegradable plastic, cloth or paper bags. About 200 of Italy??s more than 8,000 municipalities had some sort of plastic bag ban already in place before this year.

Italians expressed concern that the country will not embrace the change well. "We are not prepared to face such a cultural change," said Giampaolo Pagnini, a lawyer, in the Guardian. "We should take it slowly, because we do not have the cultural background to know how to deal with this. It took us ages to adapt to wearing a seatbelt when that law came into effect."

Italy becomes one of several nations and cities, such as San Francisco and Mexico City, to ban plastic bags entirely. Retailers like IKEA and Whole Foods Market have implemented their own plastic bag bans.

Other countries, such as China, have switched to charging for plastic bags. Washington, D.C., enacted a nickel-a-bag fee last year and registered an 85 percent decline in plastic bag use a month later. Ireland experienced a similar drop in plastic bag usage after its bag fee went into effect nine years ago.