Boulder, Colorado, passed stricter regulations against plastic bags at first of 2024, banning them from all retail shops. The harder rule builds on a 2013 native legislation that banned plastic bags from grocery stores and commenced charging customers 10 cents for each paper bag they required at checkout. The brand new legislation, a part of the state’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, additionally prohibits eating places and retail meals institutions from utilizing Styrofoam takeout containers.

The Dialog interviewed Eleanor Putnam-Farr, an assistant professor of selling at Rice College and co-author of “Forgot Your Bottle or Bag Again? How Well-Placed Reminder Cues Can Help Consumers Build Sustainable Habits,” concerning the challenges of fixing folks’s conduct – even when their intentions are good.

How in style are plastic bag bans and taxes?

Legal guidelines like Boulder’s are in style. Twelve states, plus Puerto Rico, and more than 300 municipalities, including Philadelphia, have banned plastic bag use by shoppers. Charging a charge for baggage is much less frequent, however guidelines like this are in impact in Washington; Honolulu, Hawaii; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and different U.S. cities.

And some of these rules aren’t restricted to the U.S. Many different nations are additionally cracking down on plastic bag use, together with China, Namibia and Portugal.

Cities and cities have tried quite a lot of methods, from educating shoppers to banning using baggage or simply nudging them to do the correct factor by imposing small fees. Nudges leave the choice up to the consumer and are sometimes more palatable than outright bans.

Do bans and taxes divert waste from landfills?

Many cities have reported decreases in plastic bag use after imposing plastic bag bans and charges, however the results could also be small.

In a examine on the efficacy of a bag fee implemented in Toronto, researchers discovered a 3.4% enhance in using reusable baggage, largely amongst higher-income clients.

However even a small discount is progress, proper?

Possibly. Research on parents who were assessed fees once they picked up their youngsters late at 10 totally different day care facilities discovered that small costs really led to a giant enhance in tardy mother and father – who apparently felt they have been paying for the correct to be late.

Boulder could also be combating the identical form of complacency. Disposable bag fees collected from 2013 via 2022 fluctuated barely 12 months to 12 months, however elevated as a rule – suggesting that individuals are shopping for extra baggage, not fewer. Incomes 6 cents for each bag bought – the shops hold the remaining – Boulder introduced in US$243,507 in tax income in 2021 and $248,518 in 2022.

Newspaper in plastic bag with headline that reads 'S.F. bans plastic grocery bags-first city in U.S.'

San Francisco was the primary metropolis in the US to ban plastic baggage at checkout in 2007.
David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Why don’t extra shoppers use reusable baggage?

Shoppers keep on with plastic baggage for many reasons, including convenience. Research on farmers market shoppers in Ohio suggests by accident leaving reusable baggage of their vehicles or at house is an impediment, and a few shoppers choose plastic baggage as a result of they reuse them for trash and pet waste. However researchers from Chile, which enacted a complete ban on plastic bags in 2019, discovered that people there at first weren’t committed to reusable bags. Shoppers in Chile felt pressured to vary their conduct, and responsible once they didn’t comply. In addition they felt like 100% of the burden of sustainability was compelled on them, all of which undermined the aim of the ban.

What does work to encourage shoppers to make use of reusable baggage?

Crucial factor is to know that most individuals don’t set out to use more plastic. So the very best options assist shoppers obtain their targets and make entry to reusable baggage simpler. The bottom line is to find out the largest obstacle to customers bringing reusable baggage.

In our research about reusable bottles, my colleagues on the Yale Middle for Buyer Insights and at Google knew that almost all workers of the workplace website had reusable bottles however forgot to carry them to the water stations to refill them. As an alternative of banning plastic cups or disposable bottles, we created reminders and positioned them close to the employees’ desks. These reminders helped folks behave the best way they needed to behave and had the additional benefit of creating the folks be ok with the general course of, which may be its personal reward.

The identical can work for reusable baggage even with out imposing bans or fines. If folks don’t have reusable baggage, make them accessible. If individuals are forgetting their baggage within the vehicles, create reminders within the parking zone. If individuals are leaving their baggage at dwelling, provide bag hooks they’ll place close to their doorways. These create simple visible reminders to seize the procuring baggage on their means out of the home.


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