Friday, December 31, 2010

Italy: First European country to ban plastic bags

The country is believed to be the first in the EU to outlaw the use of polythene bags in a move that Italian environmental organisation Legambiente estimates will save 180,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Italians are among the top consumers of plastic bags in Europe, using more than 300 per person a year. This is around a quarter of the 100 billion plastic bags imported from China, Thailand and Malaysia that are used annually across Europe. The ban will come into force on New Year’s Day, when consumers will be forced to swap the plastic for biodegradable, fabric or paper bags.

Stefania Prestigiacomo, Italy’s environment minister, said: “This marks a key step forward in the fight against pollution and it makes us all more responsible in terms of recycling." He said the government was launching a public awareness campaign to promote the use of bags made out of natural and recyclable materials "that don't just have to be practicable and good for the environment but also fashionable." Environmental groups have welcomed the ban despite industry opposition. In a survey organised by Legambiente, 20,000 shoppers in 80 towns were asked what they would do if they could not buy plastic bags. More than 73% opted for reusable ones, against 16% who chose "bio-plastic" bags and 10% paper sacks. In 2002, Ireland introduced a €0.15 levy on plastic bags which significantly cut their use.

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