Archive for July, 2011

Italy to ban plastic shopping bags on January 1

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

(Reuters Life!) – Italy, one of the top users of plastic shopping bags in Europe, is banning them starting January 1, 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.

Italians 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.

Starting on Saturday, retailers are banned from providing shoppers polyethylene bags. They can use bags made of such material as biodegradable plastic, cloth or paper.

Other 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.

“You are talking of a revolution that is already under way,” Legambiente scientific chief Stefano Ciafani said of the shift to biodegradable bags.

Two 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.


Legislation 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 week.

Federdistribuzione, Italy’s retailers association, said the January 1 deadline could lead to “chaos” and poor service for shoppers given lack of detail in the decree, business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said this week.

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, the paper said.

Shops and shoppers seem prepared. The mid-size Billa supermarket on Milan’s bustling Via Torino is ready with white biodegradable bags costing 10 euro cents, twice the price for existing yellow plastic bags, Billa manager Aldo Vismara said.

“We will have them at the check-out from January 1, 2011, and we will replace the yellow ones,” he said.

On the downside of the shift, Vismara said there was the possibility the white bag could disintegrate in the rain.

Shoppers worried about the strength of the new bags.

“It’s a positive move if the bags are strong enough. The worry is, what happens if they break?” shopper Rosanna said, declining to give her family name.

Southampton, N.Y., adopts plastic bag ban

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Posted April 29, 2011

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. (Updated April 29, 11:25 a.m. ET) — Santa Clara County supervisors have passed a ban on plastic bags in unincorporated areas of the county, while a village in New York will prohibit retailers there from using non-biodegradable bags.

The bans are the fifth and sixth to be passed in the U.S. this year.

In Santa Clara, the board said the measure, which will go into effect Jan. 1, will affect 56 retailers who hand out an estimated 32,000 plastic bags annually. There is an exemption for plastic newspaper bags and for restaurants, non-profit groups and social organizations. The ban also will require that retailers charge at least 15 cents for paper bags in an effort to influence shoppers to use reusable bags.

The ban was passed by a 4-1 vote with board member Mike Wasserman — former mayor of Los Gates — dissenting. There was no opposition to the bill at the April 26 hearing.

Meanwhile, a Long Island village with a population of 4,000 has passed a measure prohibiting the use of non-biodegradable bags by retailers, markets and restaurants. The Southampton Village Board voted 5-0 for the ban. Merchants have six months to start using paper or reusable bags. Violators face a $1,000 fine and up to 14 days in jail.

The village said plastic bags pose a danger to marine and avian life and frequently are found littering public places. The non-profit Citizens Campaign for the Environment said Southampton is the first New York state municipality to implement a ban on plastic bags. It said a similar ban exists in Westport, Conn.

In Oregon, a bill that would ban plastic bags and require retailers to charge 5 cents for paper bags is stalled in the Senate Rules Committee after passing the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee late last month.

Earlier in April, Newport Beach, Calif., declined to enact a bag on plastic bags, citing potential litigation issues.

Twenty-one U.S. communities have plastic bag bans, and Washington, D.C., has a 5-cent fee on paper and plastic carryout bags.