The plastic bag charge has a negative consequence

The law of unintended consequences might be at work as the plastic single use bag levy has actually meant that some people are buying more bags.

The logic is that the plastic bags were often reused as bin bags. "And as one study has found," spokesperson Mark Hall commented, "the cut in supermarket bags is now being partly offset by people buying more plastic rubbish sacks."

A study [Bag leakage: The effect of disposable carryout bag regulations on unregulated bags (Taylor, RLC; Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, January 2019)] concluded that in California, where single-use plastic supermarket bags are banned and shoppers have to pay ten cents for a paper sack some 20,000 tonnes of plastic supermarket bags were eliminated, but this was offset by Californians buying an additional 6,000 tonnes of rubbish bags and refuse sacks.

In the UK, carried out its own survey of 1,500 households and found that 470 households were buying extra rubbish bags instead of using supermarket plastic bags.

Although there is no doubt that the levy has helped reduce plastic use – and waste – it is useful to remember that to every action there is a reaction, albeit not always equal (sorry Newton!).

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