At the beginning of this year, Italy became the first European country to place a ban on the use of plastic bags. Having one of the highest rates of consumption in Europe, Italian residents use more than 300 bags each, totaling more than 20 billion bags a year. The law for the gradual ban was first introduced in 2006. Cities worldwide are moving toward the environmentally conscious decision to ban plastic shopping bags. Here's a short list of what's already been done worldwide from npr.org:
In April 2007, Leaf Rapids, a town of about 550 people in Canada's Manitoba, became the first municipality in North America to adopt a law forbidding the use of plastic bags by shops. The law calls for fines of as much as 1,000 Canadian dollars, though no one has yet received one, a town official says. Local businesses offer reusable cloth bags as an alternative.
In January 2008, the New York City Council voted to require large stores and retail chains to recycle plastic bags.
In Germany, stores provide consumers with the option of a plastic bag or a canvas- or cotton-made tote for a fee. Many German consumers carry their own bags when doing the shopping and it's not uncommon to see some using wicker baskets or wheeled carts. Stores that offer plastic bags have to pay a recycling fee.
Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania's Zanzibar islands have banned flimsy plastic, introducing minimum thickness requirements. Many independent supermarkets in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, now charge a small fee for each plastic bag but also give away a free, reusable basket with a minimum purchase.
The Swedish government is encouraging plastic bag producers to continually develop greener bags. Two of the Nordic country's biggest grocery chains have made biodegradable paper bags and reusable cloth bags available to shoppers
You can track what's happening worldwide via the interactive map here - thanks to chicobag.com (one of my FAVORITE reusable bags) Their website is loaded with a great deal of information and resources about the reusable bag movement.