Evaluation of Legal Strategies for the Reduction of Plastic Bag Consumption
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CitationChasse, Catherine. 2018. Evaluation of Legal Strategies for the Reduction of Plastic Bag Consumption. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractIn the grand scheme of human history lightweight plastic shopping bags have been present for an infinitesimal amount of time. However, their impacts have been substantial. An estimated one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Their excessive use and short lifespan are linked to many environmental issues such as litter, wildlife deaths and fossil fuel use.
For these reasons, many governmental bodies, non-governmental organizations as well as the retail and grocery sectors worldwide have attempted to reduce their consumption of plastic bags in order to lessen their environmental impacts.
This thesis seeks to identify policies and regulations from the local to national levels of government in order to identify the most effective means of reducing the use of plastic bags. More than 450 initiatives were identified, mapped and analyzed throughout the world. Over 100 countries have had or are currently under a strategy aimed at reducing lightweight plastic bag consumption in their nation. A website (https://chassecatherine5.wixsite.com/plasticbagregulation) containing the identified and mapped initiatives was created facilitate access to these strategies. The majority of strategies that have been enacted are locally driven. In the many actions taken to reduce the use of plastic bags, five main strategies were recognized: bans, levies, voluntary actions, recycling programs and bans combined with a levy. Many variations exist within these strategies, such as mandate or suggestion, focus on importer or consumer, provision of alternatives and education, advance consultation, active enforcement, advanced consultation, monitoring of results and responsive adjustment of fees. Some areas have complete bans on plastic bags whereas others only ban certain types such as non-biodegradable plastic bags, non-compostable plastic bags or plastic bags under a certain wall thickness.
The most effective strategies at each level of government were determined based on reduction in plastic bag use following implementation of the initiatives. The results show that although bans are the most frequently chosen actions, they are not always the most effective at getting reductions. However, based on available data, all strategies analyzed were shown to be effective to some degree. Nevertheless, some had more evidence of success than others. Therefore, a model was constructed based on this evidence. The results suggest that the most effective model consists of a national directive establishing reduction targets or a mandatory national levy, regional levies and local bans. This model was applied to Canada in order to project the expected reduction in plastic bag use within the country if it were to adopt the model. Results suggest that by adopting this reduction strategy, Canada could decrease by at least 80% its use of plastic bags in each province within 10 years.
It is hoped that the results of this thesis will facilitate prudent decision-making with regard to plastic bag management and could be utilized as a framework for many countries.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004017