Plastic bag bans: Lessons from the Australian Capital Territory

Date of publication 29 June 2020

Authors Macintosh, Andrew; Simpson, Amelia; Neeman, Teresa; Dickson, Kirilly.

Sources Resources, Conservation and Recycling : 154, 104638.



Bans on single-use plastic shopping bags are amongst the most popular policy interventions taken by governments to address the harms associated with plastics. Yet, there are few published studies on their effectiveness and durability. This article addresses this gap, presenting the results of a study on the impacts of a ban on single-use plastic bags introduced in the Australian Capital Territory in 2011. The study assessed whether the ban has reduced plastic bag consumption and litter, and whether community support for the ban was sustainable. The results suggests the ban has not been overly effective in reducing plastic bag consumption or litter. Over the almost seven-year study period, between 2011 and 2018, the ban reduced consumption of single-use conventional polyethylene bags by similar to 2600 tonnes. However, these reductions were largely offset by increases in the consumption of other bags. The net effect of the ban on plastic consumption over the period was relatively minor; a 275 t reduction. Notwithstanding this, the ban is widely supported. When it was first introduced, 58 % of the community supported the ban. By 2018, this had increased to 68 %. The article explores the implications of the results and the need for better information on plastic bag consumption.

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