ROME, Dec 30, 2010 (AFP) - Italy is set to ban plastic bags from shops and supermarkets across the country on January 1 as shoppers eager for the New Year's sales prepare to swap to biodegradable, fabric or paper bags.
Italians are among the top consumers of plastic bags in Europe, using more than 300 per person a year, or around a quarter of the 100 billion plastic bags imported from China, Thailand and Malaysia that are used annually across Europe.
"This marks a key step forward in the fight against pollution and it makes us all more responsible in terms of recycling," said Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo.
Prestigiacomo said the government was launching a public awareness campaign to promote the use of bags made out of natural and recyclable materials "that don't just have to be practicable and good for the environment but also fashionable."
Environmental groups have welcomed the ban, which will come into effect on Saturday despite industry opposition.