(ICIS) -- Italians are preparing to find alternative means of carrying home their shopping following the introduction of a new law which bans the use of non-biodegradable single-use plastic bags, but the plan is not without its difficulties, sources said on Tuesday.
The law, which came into effect on 1 January 2011, allows shops to give existing stocks to their customers free of charge, but consumers can no longer expect to get a free bag once these are depleted.
The move has been welcomed by environmental groups, like Legambiente, which estimates that plastic bag usage has reached 300 per capita annually in Italy, or about a fifth of the 100bn plastic bags used annually across Europe, according to business publication Environmental Leader.
Sources estimate the Italian plastic bag industry to be using between 200,000 and 250,000 tonnes/year of polyethylene (PE) - low density PE (LDPE), high density PE (HDPE) and linear low density PE (LLDPE).
When Ireland levied a 15 euro cent tax on single-use plastic bags in 2002, bag usage fell immediately by more than 90%, from an annual level of 328 plastic bags per capita to just 21. By 2007, per capita consumption had risen to 31 a year, and the tax was lifted again, to 22 euro cents.
Referring to the Italian legislation, the country's Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said: ⌠This marks a step forward in the fight against pollution and it makes us all more responsible in terms of recycling.