Reducing plastic bag use in Jamaica: ban or fee?

3000 plastic bags. Image credit: Alan
Solid waste

The Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) has recently completed an assessment of two policy options—imposing a ban vs. applying a tax/fee—for reducing the use (and subsequent disposal) of plastic bags in Jamaica (where plastic carrier bags are also known as “scandal bags”). Their key findings and recommendations:

Both methods examined  have disrupted the use of ‘scandal’ bags. Bans, however, although making use illegal, have not stopped their circulation in any of the countries examined. Major compliance issues were observed and these were largely due to the high cost of alternatives for retailers and inadequate resources to enforce the ban. Fees, on the other hand, showed little compliance issues, causing usage reduction rates close to elimination within a relatively short time in several countries. Given the evidence of the impact in various countries, and the value placed on freedom of choice in Jamaica, fees are likely to produce more favourable results – high reduction rates and little compliance issues. CAPRI is therefore recommending that:

large retailers be required by law to charge consumers at the point of sale for all single-use plastic bags under 24”x36”, and report annually on number of bags distributed and profits from the charges; extensive stakeholder consultation and public awareness campaigns be carried out prior to implementation; reduction targets be set and fees revised upward each year.

A surprising statistic from their study is that, compared to people in Europe and Australia, Jamaicans use more than twice as many plastic bags per person:

In Jamaica, as at 2015, each person has been using almost 500 ‘scandal’ bags annually, an estimated 75 per cent increase from 2011, while more developed countries, like those in the European Union, average 200 bags per person annually (170 bags in Australia).

Read more, including a review of policy options that have been used in other countries, and the related pros and cons, in the full article from the Jamaica Gleaner.  The full study will be published on the CaPRI website.


[Image credit: Alan]

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