Abandoned plastic bags were an eyesore on Italian beaches and on the sea, and posed a danger to dolphins who could swallow a plastic bag and die.
The new tax sought to have the price of bags better reflect the cost that they imposed onto society and on the environment.
By levying a tax of 100 lira (about 6 cents) per plastic bag on importers or producers, the Italian government created a new signal to the market economy - the cost of plastic bags was now greater compared to alternatives. The tax was about five times as great as the manufacturing cost per bag.
From 1989 to 1992, the government took in over 250 billion lira (around $150 million) through this tax.