Italian shoppers could soon enjoy a discount on products sold loose as part of a range of measures expected to be approved by the government as it strives to take action on the environment.
The initiative would give financial incentives to shopkeepers to reduce the price of food items and detergents sold without packaging, and of drinks, shampoos and other liquids sold from dispensers or in reusable containers.
The bill will be discussed by the prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet on Thursday afternoon. Other measures include giving public transport season tickets to those who stop using their cars, mopeds or scooters, a €20m (£18m) investment in electric and hybrid school buses, an urban reforestation plan and an environmental campaign in schools.
“We have norms that will counteract the climate emergency at 360 degrees,” Sergio Costa, the environment minister, wrote on Facebook.
Conte told a conference on Thursday that Italy is seeking to be a leader in making the economy more sustainable. He had promised to make environmental action a priority in a speech before the new left-leaning government, a coalition of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Democratic party, was voted into power in early September. Conte also made a dramatic call for urgent action at the recent UN climate action summit in New York after news emerged that a massive portion of a Mont Blanc glacier was in danger of collapse.
Luigi Di Maio, whose M5S party has long prioritised the environment in its campaigning, said the climate bill represents “a new vision of a green Italy” that would put the country at the forefront in Europe.
“It’s difficult to assess what kind of impact each measure will have but for sure, this decree is a start,” said Gianfranco Pellegrino, a politics professor at Rome’s Luiss University who has written extensively about climate change. “The environment minister is taking climate change seriously and this is an improvement in respect of previous ministers. We need a law because we can’t confront the climate emergency without legislation.”
Among Italy’s biggest challenges is tackling the huge amount of plastic littering the country’s shores, with alarming data published on Thursday by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (Ispra) revealing that more than 500,000 tonnes of plastic waste end up in the Mediterranean each year. The waste is mostly comprised of shopping bags, plastic bottles and product packaging. The data was collated with the help of fishermen, who reported that their nets now collect more waste than fish. Ispra also said Italian beaches “host” between 500 and 1,000 items of rubbish every 100 metres.
“The situation in the Mediterranean is serious,” said Cecilia Silvestri, a researcher at Ispra.
“The problem is that the Mediterranean is a closed basin … and it is compromised because of rubbish that gets dumped in the sea in north African countries that don’t yet have a sufficient waste management system. The rubbish circulates and ends up near our coastline.”
Plastic is also heavily polluting Italy’s lakes. “I was in Lake Como recently and discovered the lake is the most polluted in Europe with microplastic,” said Pellegrino. “Plastic is a real problem and needs to be addressed very soon.”
Pollution is another major issue, especially in Italy’s northern cities. While Italy’s greenhouse gas emissions have been decreasing over the past decade, the country was criticised this year by the European Climate Foundation for failing to provide an adequate plan to further reduce emissions and dependency on fossil fuels.
“Emissions remain a problem and another issue is extinctions – in Italy there are many species that are close to dying off,” added Pellegrino.
An estimated 1 million Italian schoolchildren took part in a global climate strike inspired by the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on 27 September.