25 Oktober 2006

Italy bans non-biodegradable carrier bags

New law likely to come into force in 2010

Italy’s new centre-left government is set to agree legislation that will make biodegradable carrier bags obligatory as of 1 January 2010. An amendment to budgetary legislation now being voted on has already been agreed by an environmental commission in the lower house of parliament, and appears set to pass a full vote.

The amendment would ban both production and use of carriers in plastics derived from petroleum. “The result will be to reduce waste dangerous to the environment, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and thus meet objectives fixed under the Kyoto Protocol,” said Ermete Realacci, president of the commission.

Plastics industry trade groups are questioning the cost to processors of converting to production of biopolymer film as well as the cost of the bags themselves (likely to be around twice as much as PE bags) and the suitability for purpose of such materials (although Novamont’s Mater-Bi is already used in limited quantities for carrier bags.) There is also the isssue of material availability. At present, biopolymer production capacity in Italy is only 8,000tpa, according to the Italian website Polimerica.

Italian agricultural association Coldiretti calculates that some 200,000 hectares of land would need to be given over to crops to make sufficient biopolymers for all the new bags needed.

The Italian magazine Panorama quotes environmentalist group Legambiente as putting the annual production of carrier bags in Italy at 300,000 tonnes (other sources quote a figure closer to 200,000 tonnes), involving the production of 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Some supermarkets already use biodegradable carrier bags. Coop Italia is one, although it appears likely the bags it uses, made from polyethylene compounds containing an additive promoting oxydegradation, would not be permitted under the new regime.

Italy is following in the steps of France, which several months ago voted in similar legislation to take effect in 2009.

Source: PRW Oct. 24, 2006.

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