The War on Plastic – Italian Style

UPDATE: 1/5/2018 Deceit is an ugly form of extortion that can lead people to believe something that is not true. I was lied to and I believed it until I did some research. I’m in disbelief that the supermarket owner, where I’ve done my shopping for the last three years, lied to me about the “automatic charge” on biodegradable plastic bags for fruit and vegetable purchases. I was led to believe that it was a mandatory charge; that if you buy one lemon you will be charged automatically .2c for a biodegradable bag whether you use one or not. I fell for it, but only for two days, then I went into other supermarkets around town and asked.

The law only states that supermarkets cannot give out free biodegradable bags like they have in the past. Makes sense. There has never been an issue with paying for the bag if used or needed.

At one supermarket, the owner told me that he cannot give any bags out for free and that there would only be a charge if you use a biodegradable bag. Punto basta.

It’s comforting to finally realize the truth about this scandalous topic that has overtaken social media. I’m glad I did my homework and continued to question people as deceit is hidden around every corner here … fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

However, this new rule/law still has some flaws dear Ministero dell’Ambiente. Consumers should be able to bring their own mesh bags from home to buy produce. The supermarket needs to be held accountable for health and hygiene measures. They need to train people who work at the cash tills to clean the belt and scanning area several times a day. Eliminating and banning the use of plastic bags within all supermarkets is a start. I’m sorry I said that you suck, I was hangry.

*****Below is my full rant on the topic before I found out I was being lied to.

Happy New Year to you all, and with this new year brings a new and outrageous law from the land of pasta and romance. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I weren’t witnessing it. It’s shocking, scandalous and down-right against my fundamental rights as a human. The “Green movement” the world over are cringing at Italy’s new law on those biodegradable plastic bags for fruit and vegetable purchases at the supermarket.

This is the war on plastic – Italian Style.

The following notice is now in all the supermarkets, it’s the gossip of 2018 around town and some people are fuming, some are taking it in stride, and some will not be silenced.

A brief translation of the notice: 

  • Starting January 1st, 2018 the new law about bio-degradable fruit and vegetable bags, under the ‘direttiva Europea 2015/720,’  comes into effect.
  • The object is to decrease the use of plastic bags.
  • All fruit and vegetable bags must be 100% biodegradable.
  • The law also states that the supermarket cannot give out free bags.
  • The price of each biodegradable bag must appear on the final receipt.
  • There is a fine from €2,500 to €25,000 for anyone that violates the law.
  • The cost of the biodegradable bags will range from area to area within Italy – here it’s .2cents.
  • You may use the biodegradable bags only once. You may not bring them with you on a return visit, you must “buy” more bags.
  • 3 ways to use the biodegradable bags.

Does anyone see any glaring contradictions here?

I sure do. How are we reducing the use of plastic bags if we are forced into paying for them, thus making use of something where there was no need in the first place? If, and only if I use the bag I will pay for it, I have no problem paying for something that I choose to have (not you). How can you charge me for something I have no need for? The following text is from a Facebook post that is gathering momentum. People are outraged and angry and we should be.

Dear Ministero dell’Ambiente,

You suck.

I am just back from the supermarket and I am steaming mad! I mean, I was prepared for your idiocy by the newspaper articles and news spots on tv, but I never imagined it would anger me so.

Just in case you don’t understand your new law, I’ve laid it out for you here – Italy has a new law – you now pay for those fruit and veg bags at the supermarket, even if you don’t use them. No problem paying for them ‘if’ I use them, however, this is Italy and things never make sense. I was automatically charged .4c for the two bags, and you can see that I didn’t use them.

But… I decided to take the bags, only because I’m being FORCED to buy them. How is forcing someone to pay for something they never use good for the environment? Why are the people who recycle and take it seriously being punished for those who do not?

What good recycler would put two onions in a plastic bag, and one small cauliflower in a plastic bag?

This is just another money grabbing scheme by the Italian gov’t and if you look at it closely, makes no sense whatsoever!!

Why don’t you just increase the cost of fruit and veg instead of forcing people to pay for plastic that is fucking useless, much like you?

So, considering the forced payment, I will collect all the bags that I paid for but didn’t need or use, and after a year of collecting I will show you how much money you robbed from me and how much unnecessary plastic you, yes you, put into the world.

Give your head a shake.

One pissed off recycling Canadian living in Italy.

That post got a lot of people talking and it’s a great discussion that we need to have. Some excellent points were brought up like:

  • Put stickers on each piece of fruit or vegetable to get away without paying for the bio-degradable bag. Great idea, however, once that apple or 3kgs of fennel are scanned at the computer, the computer recognizes it as ‘produce’ and automatically charges you anywhere from 2c-10c.
  • Seeing as we can’t escape this some people will re-use the bio-degradable bag to clean up after their dogs. Most excellent idea!!
  • I’ll just bring my own bags from home. You can and you can’t. You can use your own tote to ‘carry-out’ your groceries. You can’t use your own mesh bags or other bags of any type for vegetable and fruit purchases.
  • I’ll just shop at the local farmer’s market. I love this idea, and it’s what we need to be doing all along, however, again the local farmer’s market also provides those bio-degradable bags for your purchase of 35 clementines, 12 apples and 7 lemons. I believe this law also applies to the local farmer’s markets. I will find out on Monday and keep you updated.
  • It’s about hygiene. Not it’s not. It’s about money. Any good supermarket is clean, and every ‘cash-out’ area should be clean and free of germs before and after each new client.

This law smells fishy, like a subtle attempt at extortion. It’s about the big corporations making more money and staying in business.

Maybe someone somewhere in the ranks of Italian bureaucracy owed someone a favour, and a deal was hatched to produce 80 billion tons of biodegradable bags and force consumers to use/pay for them – then they laughed as zero’s were added to their bank statements and taken from those trying to be good law-abiding citizens who are aware but rendered stuck in a puddle of amazing ignorance.

Who knows. That’s just my two cents.

What are your thoughts on the War on Plastic and this new outrageous law?

11 thoughts on “The War on Plastic – Italian Style

  1. Is there a single or group of companies making these biodegradable bags, and did they in any way influence how the law was crafted? California is the first state in the USA, ( mandating the legislation of phasing out the older plastic bags. So our legal choices are to bring our own reusable bags (older plastic ones or more durable bags,) or be charged 10 cents for buying their “reusable” plastic bag—or figure out how to get your stuff to your car with your own arms and legs! It’s always been that money tends to be the best motivator for human behavior, as history certainly shows. While I don’t like the fact that California plastic producers seem to be reaping a windfall in new sales orders, making it financially sting for consumers to use older plastic bags is nonetheless a good incentive, but only if it really stings. In both California and Sardinia, I’m of the opinion that there should be no charge at all if a bag isn’t used by a customer, but 50 cents (or 1/2 a Euro) if a reusable bag is a necessary purchase–the carrot and stick approach. Most folks would likely begin modifying their behavior, as has been shown the case with other types of recycling here in California. Ideally, after a few years of this approach, there should be a marked change in shopping attitudes in both Sardinian and Californian societies. And honestly, I am more concerned about the impact on wildlife and quality-of-life issues for local people than trying to stop bag makers from coming out smelling like roses financially. Although they will probably see a short-term financial gain, eventually more and more of our societies will modify their behavior and change to reusable shopping bags that are not of plastic. And who knows, maybe THAT will spur a whole new fashion industry direction–designer grocery bags!

  2. This law is a clear evidence of the stupidity of the politic leaders.
    I m leaving in Belgium and we get free paper bags. What about all the products that are packed in plastic (lots of plastic)? The lobbies of the big supermarkts are working overtime.

  3. Ciao, sorry if I intrude myself but I must say that the problem, in the country where I live, has been solved in the Italian way. The country is small (La Caletta di Siniscola) on the sea in the province of Nuoro, in the Baronies.For us the problem of plastic is heavy, we want our sea to always be clean and ecological containers are welcome. The shops and especially the street markets, issue the receipt for the bags, but do not charge them.

  4. It is so disappointing to read this article and such a pointless scheme.. it screams of lobbyist of some form or another.
    Here in Ireland in one grocery chain, we weigh our loose produce at the till and i pack loosely into my reuseable shopping bags.
    An initivtive here is beginning ( at very early stages) in a move to try and bring further awareness to the issue of single use plastics ( or pointless sale of biodegradable plastics in Sardinias case) is to send all packaging / useless bags back to the supermarkets and allow them pay for disposal of said items. However in ireland we pay for every bin collected and im not sure if the same applies in Sardinia…
    How infuriating to see such pointless actions and realise what a struggle bringing a zero waste mentality may be if I ever get to live there…..
    Thanks for the article and any further info on waste management issues you become aware of I’ll be watching for closely!!!

    • Thanks for the great comment! There really is no incentive here to recycle. When I moved here 10 years ago – there was no recycling! Friends would gawk at me as I cleaned out tuna cans, yoghurt tubs, and omg, even clean and reuse a Ziploc bag! Recycling was slowly introduced and people followed as best as they could. In Canada, we were taught recycling in grade school, it started very young and was instilled in our little brains that it just became a good habit. I hope one day, the waste management and recycling efforts change for the better, it’s a small country with a lot of people and a change needs to happen. 😉

  5. In South Africa we pay for plastic bags, OK but it is farce because people still throw them away. i have shopping bags that i use time and again. It certainly makes me feel better.

  6. Hi,

    I live near San Francisco in California. We have a no plastics law now for large bags. The store still provides plastic bags for veggies, fruit, etc. but you have to bring your own or pay 10Cents for a brown paper bag to carry everything out. This cuts down on some plastic but since there are still plastic bags given freely it doesn’t do enough. I’d be happy to pay for recyclable bags instead of the regular plastic ones they still give out. I don’t feel good about using the plastic but haven’t organized an alternative.

    People are resistant to change, yes? Especially when it’s flawed rules and laws . Many rules/laws go through phases before they get it right. Hopefully, Italy and California are headed in a good direction? At least Italy is acknowledging that there’s a problem unlike our idiotic president!

    All the best,

    Sent from my iPad

  7. In the UK we have a 5p charge for plastic carrier bags, it was brought in a while back. Usage has now dropped considerably. So that has been good for the environment. Fruit, veg and meat bags are still free though. We don’t seem to have many biodegradable bags though.

    I am not sure why Italy has this charge, but because I can find uses for bio bags, it wouldn’t trouble me too much.

    Life is too short???

    • Hello and thanks for reading and leaving a comment. There is also a charge in Italy for plastic or paper carrier bags, not a problem if I need one, but 99.9% of the time I have cloth tote’s that I bring from home and that I wash on a weekly basis. You’re right, life is too short but does a pineapple need a biodegradable bag? Do three lemons need that same bag or one red pepper? The answer is simple, no – those items do not need a bag. It’s the principle and being forced to pay for something I do very well without, and have done without for years. Again, no issue with paying for the bag if I actually need to put 17 apples in it. But hey, we all know those biodegradable bags don’t hold much – so more bags. It’s the never-ending useless cycle of plastic while making the rich richer.

      • Hello Jennifer – thanks for explaining more fully. I was thinking that bio bags are better than the plastic ones we have. I would agree that having to pay and take a bag for every fresh item is nuts.

        In our household we tend to take plastic bags from shops only when needed and re-use the fruit and veg bags to keep other food items in. We also take plastic bags back to the supermarket for recycling. But given the UK is hopeless at doing anything useful with the waste it probably now gets burned or sent to landfill.

        Hopefully your lobbying will get some further changes.

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