We investigate the unintended consequences of carryout grocery bag (CGB) regulations by looking at the impact on sales of alternative plastic bag products. We extend the literature by studying two types of CGB regulations, bag bans and bag fees. Using retail scanner data and employing a general synthetic control method, we find that both types of CGB regulations are associated with significantly higher plastic trash bag sales. We estimate that CGB regulations lead to an average increase in purchased plastics of 127 pounds per store per month, ranging from 30 to 135 (37–224) pounds for 4-gallon (8-gallon) trash bags. These results confirm previous findings on bag bans and provide new evidence on bag fees. In general, the effects do not differ across CGB regulations, but some heterogeneity exists. Our results highlight unintentional spillover effects of narrowly targeted policies on other unregulated waste.
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Following Abadie (2021) we use all observations that are available for the post-treatment period. This results in different pre- and post-treatment lengths across the different programs. In “Appendix B” we present all results (figures and tables) for equivalent analysis in which we restrict the sample so that the post-treatment periods are equivalent across programs, this results in a substantially smaller data set for some jurisdictions. While qualitatively the effects are similar to our base analysis, the statistical significance is diminished.
The lower and upper bound of the increase in plastic from both 4- and 8-gallon trash bag is 30 to 224 lb/store-month. Its mid-point estimate is 127 lb/store-month. The weight of a 12″ × 7″ × 22″ disposable GCBs is 0.013 lb/bag retrieved from https://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-3632/Plastic-Shopping-Bags/. Accessed February 28, 2021.
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The authors acknowledge support through Texas AgriLife Research with support from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 1011850.
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Detailed estimation results and the policy effect on unit prices of trash bags are presented in this section.
1.1 Appendix A: Endogeneity Checks and Estimation Results
8 and Tables
1.2 Appendix B: Synthetic Control Model Estimated with Less Observations
14 and Tables
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Huang, YK., Woodward, R.T. Spillover Effects of Grocery Bag Legislation: Evidence of Bag Bans and Bag Fees. Environ Resource Econ 81, 711–741 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-022-00646-5