Plastic bag bans may unintentionally drive other bag sales —

When cities or counties institute plastic bag bans or charges, the concept is to cut back the quantity of plastic headed to the landfill.

However a brand new evaluation by a College of Georgia researcher finds these insurance policies, whereas created with good intentions, might trigger extra plastic luggage to be bought within the communities the place they’re in place. The examine was revealed earlier this yr within the journal Environmental and Useful resource Economics.

That is as a result of whereas plastic grocery luggage are seen as a single-use merchandise, they usually discover a second use as liners for small trash cans. When these buying luggage are taxed or taken away, individuals search for options — which suggests they purchase small plastic rubbish luggage.

“We all know there’s a demand for utilizing plastic luggage, and we all know, if these insurance policies go into impact, some luggage will disappear or will change into extra expensive to get,” mentioned Yu-Kai Huang, a postdoctoral researcher on the UGA Warnell Faculty of Forestry and Pure Sources. “So, we needed to see the effectiveness of this coverage in lowering bag utilization general.”

Earlier research have appeared on the impact of bag bans on plastic consumption, however not the mixed results of charges or a bag ban. An environmental economist, Huang used a brand new strategy to calculate the impact of both coverage whereas additionally accounting for variables corresponding to residents’ revenue ranges and an space’s inhabitants density, each of which affect the quantity of trash generated in a group.

Is banning plastic luggage efficient general?

Maintaining in thoughts the second life that plastic grocery luggage tackle in lots of houses, Huang and professor Richard Woodward of Texas A&M College measured plastic trash bag gross sales in counties with bans or charges in place, and in contrast them to different counties with out such insurance policies. The chosen counties have been far sufficient away from one another to account for customers who may cross right into a neighboring county to keep away from the coverage.

The examine discovered California communities with bag insurance policies noticed gross sales of 4-gallon trash luggage improve by 55% to 75%, and gross sales of 8-gallon trash luggage improve 87% to 110%. These outcomes echo earlier research that additionally confirmed will increase in gross sales of smaller plastic trash luggage.

However whereas gross sales of small rubbish luggage jumped after insurance policies have been carried out, gross sales of bigger 13-gallon trash luggage — the dimensions usually present in kitchen trash cans — remained comparatively unchanged. This additional underscored the double lifetime of plastic grocery luggage, Huang mentioned.

“Carryout grocery luggage have been substituted for related sizes of trash luggage earlier than implementing the rules,” he wrote within the paper. “After the rules got here into impact, shoppers’ plastic bag demand switched from regulated plastic luggage to unregulated luggage.”

The unintended improve in trash bag gross sales is also measured by weight. By buying 4-gallon trash luggage, plastic consumption elevated by between 30 and 135 kilos per retailer per 30 days. The gross sales of 8-gallon trash luggage created an extra 37 to 224 kilos of plastic per retailer per 30 days.

However, Huang famous, bag bans or charges may make a dent in plastic waste amongst high-volume shops. The examine discovered that if a retailer generated at the very least 326 carryout plastic luggage a day — about 9,769 per 30 days — the coverage would find yourself sending much less plastic to the landfill.

It is vital for policymakers to know the unintended penalties of plastic bag bans or charges earlier than implementing them, Huang mentioned. And, if residents are reusing luggage for trash cans, it may additionally have an effect on the general use.

“There isn’t any clear reply for this,” he mentioned. “Whether or not the supplied free carryout grocery luggage are reused is a key to figuring out the general effectiveness of the associated grocery bag insurance policies.”

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Supplies supplied by College of Georgia. Unique written by Kristen Morales. Observe: Content material could also be edited for model and size.