Renewable Matter # 2 / Numero #2

In the Large-Scale Retail Trade, One Carrier Bag Out of Two Is Illegal

by Stefano Ciafani

Out of 37 carrier bags spotted in various large-scale retailers in seven regions, as many as 20, i.e. 54%, were not compliant with the law banning non-compostable carrier bags. This is the outcome of the monitoring campaign organized by Legambiente, thanks to its local associations and regional committees, between late November 2014 and the Christmas festivities. The objective was to assess abidance to a law that has been in force for many years now banning plastic bags in Italy. Unfortunately, carrier bags are still widely used.

Illegal carrier bags were spotted in five regions: Campania (7 carrier bags), Basilicata (6), Apulia (3) and Lazio (1) while the carrier bags picked up in Lombardy and Veneto were all legal. At city level, the situation is as follows: Potenza (6 illegal carrier bags), Avellino, Bari and Naples (3), Vibo Valentia (2), Benevento, Catanzaro and Rome (1). Dividing the 20 carrier by large-scale retailer, the chart shows the following: Sigma (5 illegal carrier bags), A&O (3), Crai, Eurospin and Sisa (2), Conad, Despar/Eurospar, Eurocisette, Imagross, M.A. Supermercati/Gros, Maxisidis/Intersidis (1).

Our monitoring unearths widespread illegality in the carrier bags business. This is clear despite our deliberate avoidance of small retailers and local markets where the situation is clearly worse, because of the widespread sale of some retailers selling, even online, illegal carrier bags. 

The ban on plastic carrier bags has been in force for many years. The law is extremely clear, providing for very steep fines since 2014. The law banning the marketing of non-biodegradable and non-compostable carrier bags was passed in December 2006 following an amendment of the then senator Francesco Ferrante to the 2007 Finance Act (n. 296/2006). After this, many regulations followed, the most important one being the decree law n. 2 of 25/1/2012, converted into Act n. 28 of 24/3/2012 detailing the ban. The proposal of an EU directive in the spring 2014, at the end of the last European term, drew inspiration from the framework of the Italian law on the ban of non-compostable carrier bags.

The only marketable shopping bags in line with art. 2 of Act n. 28 of 2012 are: single use non-compostable carrier bags made with polymers in line with the harmonized rules UNI EN 13432:2002, according to the certifications issued by the credited institutions; the reusable bags made with traditional plastic whose handles are not incorporated within the perimeter of the bag and over 200 micron of thickness if used for food purposes and 100 micron for other purposes; the reusable bags made with traditional plastic whose handles are integrated within the perimeter and with a thickness over 100 micron for food purposes and 60 micron for all other purposes. Moreover, in order to promote the reuse of plastics from separate waste collection, the reusable bags made with traditional polymers must contain at least 30% or recycled plastic for food purposes and at least 10% for all other purposes (art. 2 par. 3 of Act n. 28/2012).

Those marketing bags not in line with the law or fake “bio-bags”, thanks to Renzi’s competitiveness decree, as from 21st August 2014 will be subjected to financial penalties ranging from €2,500 to €25,000. Such fine could be quadrupled (i.e. €100,000) if the quantity of carrier bags is large or in case the goods are worth over 20% of the offender’s turnover. 

It is high time everybody abided by a law allowing a reduction of pollution from plastic, an improved separate collection of the organic fraction of waste and the production of quality compost, while promoting industrial reconversion towards processes of green chemistry from renewables, as it is already happening in the industrial hub of Porto Torres for example. To stop such widespread illegality law enforcement agencies and the judiciary must take actions once and for all.

For further information please consult the file on this link: http://www.legambiente.it/contenuti/dossier/sacchetti-illegali