Harnessing Behavioral Science to Design Disposable Bag Regulations

Tatiana Homonoff, Rebecca Taylor, Lee-Sien Kao, and Doug Palmer
Behavioral Science and Policy, Behavioral Science and Policy.

Regulation of single-use plastic products is at the center of much policy debate. Currently, there are over 400 laws in the US aimed at curbing disposable shopping bag use. Some regulators opt for command-and-control policies that ban disposable plastic bags, while others use market-based incentives like taxes on disposable bags or rewards for reusable bag use—choices that may greatly impact the policy’s effectiveness. In this paper, we review the evidence on the effectiveness of these policy design choices through a behavioral economics lens and highlight best practices for policymakers considering similar legislation.

Wagner Faculty