Australia’s plastic bag ban could do more harm than good as shoppers simply buy other single-use alternatives.
Coles and Woolworths banned single-use plastic bags in July 2018 following mounting pressure to tackle plastic waste.
Rebecca Taylor, an economics lecturer at the University of Sydney, has researched the benefits of the ban.
Coles and Woolworths banned single-use plastic bags in July 2018 following mounting pressure to tackle plastic waste
Dr Taylor focused her attention to California and compared bag-use before and after bans.
The research found the bans significantly decreased the number of plastic shopping bags but increased the sales of garbage bags.
‘I find the elimination of 40 million pounds of plastic carryout bags is offset by a 12 million pound increase in trash bag purchases,’ she wrote.
According to the findings, small trash bag sales increased by 120 per cent amid the ban, while medium and tall bags increased by 64 per cent and six per cent respectively.
Before regulation, between 12 and 22 per cent of shoppers were reusing their single-use shopping bags as trash bags around the house.
‘With a substantial proportion of carryout bags already reused in a way that avoided the manufacture and purchase of another plastic bag, policy evaluations that ignore leakage effects overstate the regulation’s welfare gains.’
The research found the bans significantly decreased the number of plastic shopping bags but increased the sales of garbage bags. Pictured: A shopper uses reusable bags after shopping at Coles
Speaking with Sunrise on Friday morning, Dr Taylor said: ‘My research shows these policies were very successful in reducing the number of grocery bags used, however sales of garbage bags skyrocket.’
’30 per cent of the plastic that was eliminated in the ban comes back in the form of garbage bags.’
Dr Taylor said plastic bag reuse before the ban was higher for people who also bought items for babies and pets as well as bargain shoppers, as they’d reuse grocery bags for their rubbish.
‘If we don’t consider the thickness and the types of bags we substitute to we could be substantially over estimating the benefits of the policy,’ she said.
Rebecca Taylor, an economics lecturer at the University of Sydney, became by intrigued by shoppers trends in the wake of a plastic bag ban and decided to research ‘plastic leakage’