The Italian government has passed a law banning the sale of non-biodegradable plastic bags, despite a legal challenge by the United Kingdom government, which claims Rome is breaching EU internal market rules.
Italy notified the European Commission on March 12 that it intended to pass a decree that would ban the sale of shopping bags not made of paper, natural fibers, polyamide fibers and polymers. These disposable bags that were still permitted for sale under the new legislation had to bear a clear inscription that said what the bag was made of and how it could be reused and disposed of.
The UK has formally requested the EC blocks the law, lodging a claim on May 15 claiming that it creates obstacles to the free movement of goods on the EU internal market, breaking Italian European Union treaty commitments.
Italy disagrees. In a communiqué, Rome said: "The decree-law identifies a well-balanced solution for the use of shopping bags, aimed at discouraging the use of disposable bags and limiting the production of waste, in order to protect the environment from the accidental dispersion of bags while simultaneously promoting industrial and technological development in the field of chemistry from renewable sources."
The European Commission has been postponing an EU-wide proposal on the handling of plastic shopping bags for several months. A non-binding recommendation on what EU countries should do with plastic bags might be released by the end of this month, according to Joe Hennon, the EU environment spokesperson.
"It won't be an outright ban," he said. EU countries will most likely be advised to "start charging for plastic bags," Hennon added.