Italy Bans Plastic Bags, Could Face Legal Opposition

By:  Shanna Foley Italy has become the latest in a growing number of countries to ban plastic bags.  A new Italian law, which took effect on January 1st of 2011, bans stores from giving out non-biodegradable plastic bags.  The law allows some time for retailers to adjust to the new law, allowing them to use up existing supplies of plastic bags.[1] Like most other plastic bag bans, the law encourages consumers to use reusable bags over paper.[2]

Although similar laws were already in existence in about 200 Italian cities, plastic bag waste is still a large problem.[3] Italy used more plastic bags than any other European country (about 25 percent of all plastic bag consumption in Europe), with each Italian consuming between 300[4] and 400 plastic bags per year.[5]

Although other European countries charge a fee for plastic bags, Italy is the first European country to institute a nation-wide ban on plastic bags entirely.[6]

The bag ban was driven by concerns about waste including excessive plastic debris at popular tourist destinations.  For instance, the President of the popular Cinque Terre National Park stated that the area was being “buried” in plastic, much of it left by tourists.  The Cinque Terre region is also addressing plastic waste from plastic water bottles by asking tourists to pay one euro for a reusable metal flask instead of continually buying plastic water bottles.[7] An Italian environmental group also estimates that the plastic bag ban will save Italy 180,000 tons of CO2 emissions.[8]

However, not unlike plastic bag bans in the United States, Italy’s law will likely not be without legal opposition.  The Carrier Bag Consortium[9] and the Packaging and Films Association,[10] two industry groups involved in the manufacturing of plastic bags and other plastic products both opposed the ban, saying it will lead to “chaos” in supermarkets.[11] The ban was originally scheduled to go into effect in January of 2010, but was postponed due to opposition from plastics industry groups.[12] It’s possible that the ban may face a legal challenge, for instance, the Carrier Bag Consortium has stated that the ban violates European Union laws.[13]

The Carrier Bag Consortium also advocates voluntary agreements whereby retailers can continue to provide plastic bags, and customers are encouraged to bring reusable bags.  The CBC has touted the purported effectiveness of such campaigns, stating that plastic bag use has dropped by 50 to 70%.[14] In fact, more reputable sources point to the exact opposite result.  The Guardian reports that plastic bag use in on the rise in the UK, while Ireland, a country that taxes plastic bag use has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of plastic bags used.[15]

[1] Laura Bly, Italy Says ‘No, Grazie’ To Plastic Shopping Bags, USA Today (Jan. 3, 2011)

[2] Lauren Frayer, Italy Says ‘Ciao’ to Plastic Bags in 2011, AolNews (Dec. 31, 2010)

[3] Bly, supra note 1.

[4] Id.

[5] Frayer, supra note 2.

[6] Id.

[7] Bly, supra note 1.

[8] Frayer, supra note 2.

[9] Carrier Bag Consortium Website:

[10] Packaging and Films Association Website:




[14] Anthony Clark, CBC Supports Legal Challenge to ‘Flawed’ Italian Bag Ban, Plastics & Rubber Weekly (Jan. 13, 2011)

[15] Bibi van der Zee, UK Plastic Bag Use On the Rise, The Guardian (Jan. 17, 2011)

UncategorizedJennie Romer