From the first of January 2018, biodegradable and compostable bags, used to contain mainly vegetables and fruits, have replaced plastic bags in Italian shops and supermarkets. Many people got angry and did not understand this decision, which was taken for a serious cause.

The reason – Italy has introduced these bags because of a European directive (written in 2015 but adopted by Italy, through a formal act, only last year). The directive “pushes” all member states towards the reduction of plastic as a packaging material. The reason behind it, therefore, is to save the environment, since the issue of pollution, especially water pollution is a serious problem nowadays.  The issue of pollution, especially water pollution, is a serious problem and the reason behind the European directive, and the Italian law, is precisely to save the environment.

The reaction – However, from the day this change was introduced, thousands of people, particularly on social networks, got really angry about the fact that now we have to pay for something that had always been free. Indeed, now consumers have to pay for these bags a cost which is between 1 and 3 cents per bag (between 4 and 12 euros per year). Something apparently unacceptable for a large number of Italians.

The law – As established by law, the bags have to be produced with at least 40% of renewable raw materials (a percentage which will increase to 60% by 2021), in addition to being suitable for food.  They cannot be reused to contain food in supermarkets, but they can be used as rubbish bags for organic garbage. A choice that would let people save money, as the rubbish bags bought in supermarkets cost much more than these new biodegradable bags. As decided by the Ministry of Health, it is possible to bring bags from home, but only if they are disposable. In any case, the price of the bag is counted with the vegetables and fruits bought, and it is therefore impossible to avoid paying it.

Problem (not) solved – Finally, when considering the impact on the environment, some problems remain. Indeed, the tags stuck on these bags – with the weight and price of the product on – are not compostable and cannot be removed without damaging the bag. Secondly, the gloves used to pick up vegetables and fruits are still made of plastic. Therefore, beside the introduction of compostable bags, countries need to make other steps to really eliminate plastic from our supermarkets and, consequently, from our rubbish.