Hooray for Italy. Italy is the latest country to have banned plastic shopping bags, and the ban went into effect on January 1st of this year. The bag ban gained steam after a grass-roots movement submitted petitions from over 100,000 Italians to their government. Several large Italian cities had already imposed a ban on the bags, so it didn’t take much political capital for Italy to require stores to use biodegradable bags. Italy’s actions will reduce Europe’s usage of over 100 billion plastic bags annually by 20%. Outstanding!
I’ve always wondered how Portland, in its sincere dedication to going green, has allowed these troublesome bags to linger so long. This last summer saw Mayor Sam Adams back off his proposed ban, to instead wait on a statewide measure that would outlaw plastic bags throughout all of Oregon. It is expected that the bags will be banned during this current legislative session that started last Monday. Hopefully we can beat California to the punch. Our neighbors to the South have been making great strides in attempting to ban bags, but they have recently come up against strong resistance from the plastic bag industry, which argued that a bag ban would cause people to lose jobs.
Whichever state bans bags first will be the first in the U.S., which uses approximately 100 billion plastic bags annually. Other countries are also realizing plastic bags have out stayed their welcome; China recently started a policy where it is now illegal to use, produce, or sell plastic shopping bags at the risk of a fine equivalent to $1,500. Many Eastern African countries have also been active in banning bags, including Zanzibar, where using a plastic bag could have you facing a 6-month jail sentence in addition to a $2,000 fine.