Persecuting Plastic Bags

10 Pages Posted: 4 May 2018

See all articles by E. Frank Stephenson

E. Frank Stephenson

Berry College - Campbell School of Business

Date Written: January 3, 2018


Did you know that after San Francisco banned plastic bags, the documented cases of E. coli–related ER visits went up by about one-fourth? Or after governments banned plastic bags in Palo Alto and Malibu, California, and in Fairfax, Virginia, there was a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illness? This chapter makes a strong case for reevaluating plastic bag bans and taxes, and urges policymakers to think about all the actual costs associated with such restrictions. Key takeaways: (1) Plastic grocery bag bans and taxes are becoming increasingly popular, but these bans have unintended consequences. (2) Bans and taxes on plastic bags may not actually achieve their stated goal of reducing carbon emissions because people who would be reusing the bags for another purpose (such as lining trash cans) instead use bags made of thicker plastic.

Keywords: environmentalism, tax policy, behavioral economics, taxation, conservation, California, Virginia, plastic bags

JEL Classification: H2, H7, H71, H23

Suggested Citation

Stephenson, E. Frank, Persecuting Plastic Bags (January 3, 2018). Excerpt from Adam J. Hoffer and Todd Nesbit, eds., For Your Own Good: Taxes, Paternalism, and Fiscal Discrimination in the Twenty-First Century. Arlington, VA: Mercatus Center at George Mason University, 2018., Available at SSRN:

E. Frank Stephenson (Contact Author)

Berry College - Campbell School of Business ( email )

2277 Martha Berry Hwy NW
Mount Berry, GA 30149
United States

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