10 Gennaio 2018

Italians go bananas over tiny charge for fruit bag

Italian supermarket shoppers reacted with such horror at a two cent charge on biodegradable plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables that the government has offered a compromise. Gian Luca Galletti, the health minister, said that the decision, which took effect on January 1, was to stop shops putting up prices to justify their cost. “The price increase could have been much higher – we needed to be transparent with the customer,” he said, adding that shops not putting the charge on receipts could be fined up to 25,000. Shoppers, who weigh the full bags and put a price sticker on them, bombarded social media with photos showing them individually weighing items, even single grapes, to avoid the charge. “This is a new hidden tax aimed at Italian families,” said Codacons, a consumer group, after it was suggested that the charge would add 12.50 a year to the average family’ s grocery bill. Elections take place on March 4 and protesters accused Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister, of promoting the law to benefit a bag manufacturer to which he was close, a claim he denies. Mr Galletti accused protesters of hypocrisy, saying: “We always act shocked when we see photos of fish dying, suffocated by plastic, and then we get all upset for a measure that goes in the direction of resolving this problem.” Corriere della Sera said: “We are prepared to do everything to stop China polluting, but things change when it’ s time to do our part.” Italians already pay for large plastic bags at the checkout and and rarely complain, but another newspaper, Il Fatto Quotidiano, said: “Those small bags are possibly the best symbol of everyday life, because they are associated with fruit and vegetables, which we consume every day.” The health ministry has since said that shoppers can bring their own biobags, but only use them once, to avoid the risk of “bacterial contamination”. That earned scorn from Stefano Ciafani, of Legambiente, an environmental group, who said that “fruit and veg automatically comes with earth and bacteria”. He added: “They should have allowed people to bring their own reusable mesh bags like they do in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. No one is dying of bacterial disease there.”

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