On the first shopping day of the New Year, Italian consumers have had to make do without one of their favorite accessories: the plastic bag. A new law has banned their use from January 1.
Italy, one of the top users of plastic bags in Europe, has outlawed the all-purpose carry-all from the start of the year.
Italians use more than 300 of them per person per year, or around a fifth of the 100 billion plastic bags used annually across Europe.
"This marks a step forward in the fight against pollution and it makes us all more responsible in terms of recycling," said Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo.
Environment groups have welcomed the ban, having argued for years that the typical polyurethane bag uses too much oil to produce, takes too long to decompose and is generally an eyesore and environmental hazard for wildlife.
Prestigiacomo said the government was launching a public awareness campaign along with the ban to promote the use of bags made out of natural fibers and other recyclable materials.
The government in Rome is hoping that fashion-conscious Italians will embrace reusable shopping bags as a fashion statement and must-have accessory.