Ultimately, the greatest gain from plastic bag bans and pricing is probably in shifting environmental outlooks.
Research connects charges for plastic bags to attitudinal changes among consumers, including support for additional environmental policies.
There can be broader shifts in norms, as “the emergence around the world of an anti-plastic bag norm has been rapid and widespread”. The hope is that increased consciousness in this part of our lives will raise awareness about environmental impacts and alter behaviour in other ways.
This leads to some insights about bags.
For example, according to the UN Environment Programme, a cloth bag used between 50 and 150 times will have a lower climate impact than a single-use plastic bag.
When it comes to a plastic bag, if you want to halve the environmental harm, use it twice. Drop it to 25%? Use it four times. Reduce the impact by 90%? Use it ten times.
And if we do get reusable bags, we really need to re-use, re-use, and re-use them. As an article in Popular Science has pointed out: “Regardless of the material, the best bags are the ones you already own.”
In the end, should plastic bag bans be banned? Not exactly, but the entire story of their effects must be more closely considered.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Used with permission.