Sunday, January 09, 2011


When I first moved to Sicily, it was virtually impossible to purchase a simple shopping bag of the kind you can buy in any supermarket or indoor market in the UK.   When I was out I never saw a man or woman carrying  a shopper, unless it was by Gucci.  Indeed, when I ventured out armed with my faithful British shopping bag Rosa, in particular, used to tell me that a woman carrying two bags looked odd. 

Well, all that may be about to change as  Italy introduced a blanket ban on plastic carrier bags in stores from January 1st.  Whilst environmentalists have welcomed the ban, store managers have been predicting chaos and warning that the country's environmental crisis will worsen, as people will no longer be able to recycle store plastic carriers as rubbish bags and will just go out and buy lots of oversized black bags.

Italy is responsible for 25% of the plastic bags used in the EU each year or approximately 300 bags per person annually and, whilst I appreciate that the ban has been introduced partially to avoid scenes like the one below, I personally  regard the ban as a nuisance:  It is not always possible to know how many bags you will need before you shop and paper bags disintegrate in the rain - not a concern for those who shop by car but a problem for the rest of us.

It is true that local councils in Italy have been trying, with little success, to get people to separate their rubbish but it is hard to keep a check on this in a country where most people live in flats and take their rubbish to communal containers.  In my view an education campaign is needed to raise awareness about the consequences of not recycling while Napoli-style bag mountains can best be avoided by paying refuse collectors their salaries on time!

So far I have seen no chaos in my local supermarket and neither have I seen any alternative to  plastic bags but this may be because stores are being allowed to use up their current supply of carriers provided they do not charge for them.

Cloth bags are on sale in some stores but I have not seen any durable, PVC bags of the type you can buy cheaply in Britain.  But then, I have never seen a wipe-clean PVC apron on sale here either and I am sure this is because Italian women prefer aprons that they can iron.  So now I am waiting to see if they will start washing and ironing their cloth bags.  I wouldn't put it past the perfectionist Sicilian housewife!


cb said...

This made me smile. I remember when I moved to Italy and people thinking I was crazy because I took a bag to the supermarket to fill up. It was NOT the 'done thing'.
Saying that, although I try to be good about recycling bags, I do need to avail myself when deciding to pop into supermarket on the way home from work or something so I'd definitely find the total ban annoying..

Liz said...

A total ban seems extreme. Over here most stores now sell a 'lifelong' bag for about 10-15p which they will replace for you when it breaks. More and more people are now taking their own bags I notice and it's pleasing to have proper shopping bags again. Just like my granny used!

rosaria said...

Ah, times are a-changing.


I have 2 shoping bags both white with a damask print and wipeable. I usually only take one of them when I go to craft fairs or farmers markets. The grocery store still gives out the free cheapy plastic bags which usually break before I get to the car. Most places treat you like a shoplifter if you come with your shopping tote. So much for trying to be green.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I have a large collection of fabric shopping bags. I purchased them not because I am Green (although I am) but because I got tired of plastic bags breaking with the result that I had to figure out how to pick up my groceries while carrying a bottle or oxygen and leaning on a cane.

Winchester whisperer said...

They're trying to phase them out here by offering harder-wearing more permanent bags. Meanwhile the old bags are so thin that they barely last the journey home.

James Higham said...

I have four of those carrier bags here and you're right - they're unique to us.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, cb and Happy New Year. Yes, definitely not the "done thing" here!
Hi, Liz. You should post a pic of one of the bags! They are indeed, Rosaria. Hi, GCC. I hadn't thopught of that aspect. Interesting to know what it's like over there. Hi, Nick. Yes, that must be very difficult. Hi, WW. Nothing much hasw changed there, then! Hi, James. Gosh, we agree on something!


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