UBC Undergraduate Research

Best practices for managing single-use plastic bag consumption Foster, Jake


Bans, taxes, and hybrid ban-tax policies can each be effective at reducing plastic bag consumption, but bans and ban-tax policies tend to attract more opposition from stakeholders and have been argued to do less to change patterns of consumer behaviour regarding bags than tax-based policies. For these reasons my research concludes that while bans and ban-tax policies can be effective, a tax-based plastic bag management policy is the best practice for reducing plastic bag consumption in an urban space. Managing the consumption of single-use plastic bags through restrictive policies is a way for governments to reduce litter and divert garbage from their waste stream. Reducing the consumption of plastic bags will also lower the rates of their production, drawing less on a non-renewable resource already in high demand. This report aims to analyze plastic bag management efforts in urban spaces to identify what can be considered the best management practices for reducing their consumption. An effort is made to connect the best plastic bag management practices with the context of Metro Vancouver, a region that is trying to reduce its waste but currently has no policies regarding plastic bags. The analysis of plastic bag policies in this report is informed primarily by reviewing research on successful and failed plastic bag management policies around the world. Research into the areas of consumer behaviour (specifically modifying consumer behaviour) and the power of government communication as a tool to influence citizens towards following policies have also been useful to flush out some of the workings of legislated restrictive policies. In addition to peer reviewed material, a substantial amount of grey literature (including city council minutes, municipal and federal government reports, environmental impact reports, news publications, and trade journals) was reviewed to investigate the details of plastic bag management practices that have not been so widely studied. This grey literature also helped to identify the status and barriers of plastic bag management practices in Canada, which so far have not been researched thoroughly. My research has found that the best practices for reducing plastic bag consumption are government imposed policies that can change consumer behaviour towards an anti-plastic bag mentality, are supported (or at least are not opposed to) by industry and public stakeholders, and are actually effective at reducing plastic bag consumption.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International