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Plastic Bag Ban

Plastic Bag Ban

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Published by mlisheron
An, August, 2012 survey by the National Center for Policy Analysis on the impact of a ban on plastic shopping bags in Los Angeles County on business.
An, August, 2012 survey by the National Center for Policy Analysis on the impact of a ban on plastic shopping bags in Los Angeles County on business.

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Published by: mlisheron on Aug 17, 2012
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NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSIS
A Survey on the Economic Efects o Los Angeles County’s Plastic Bag Ban
Grocers and other retailers nationwide pack consumers’ purchases in plastic bags.However, a growing number o jurisdictions — including Los Angeles County, and citiessuch as Austin and Seattle — have banned the use o thin-flm plastic bags. Other local governments, such as the Washington, D.C., city council, have implemented a per-bag tax.
Executive Summary
Grocers and other retailers nationwide pack consumers’ purchases inplastic bags. However, a growing number of jurisdictions — includingLos Angeles County, and cities such as Austin and Seattle — have banned
the use of thin-lm plastic bags. Other local governments, such as the
Washington, D.C., city council, have implemented a per-bag tax.In July 2011, the Los Angeles County bag ban took effect for large groceryand retail stores in some areas of the county. In January 2012, the ban took effect for smaller grocery and convenience stores. The ban did not apply toany stores in incorporated areas of Los Angeles County. The National Centerfor Policy Analysis conducted a survey of store managers in both areas,regarding the plastic bag ban. This study reports those results.The purpose of the survey was to determine the effects of the ban on salesand employment at the stores affected by the ban. The study also soughtto determine if consumers changed their shopping behavior by increasingpurchases at stores that could still offer plastic bags. The survey foundthat following full implementation of the ban, sales increased at stores in
incorporated cities compared with stores in unincorporated areas. Of these
respondents to the survey affected by the ban:
Over a one-year period (pre- and post-bag ban), 60 percent of stores in
incorporated areas reported an increase in sales averaging 9 percent. 
Fourth-fths of the stores in the unincorporated areas reported a decrease
in sales averaging, –5.7 percent.Examining the overall change in sales of all the stores that responded
among the two groups (incorporated versus unincorporated):
 
Incorporated stores experienced an increase in sales of 3.4 percent. 
However, unincorporated stores reported a decline in sales of –3.3percent.The ban negatively affected employment at stores inside the ban area.While every store inside the ban area was forced to terminate some of itsstaff, not a single store outside the ban area dismissed any staff. Stores insidePolicy Report No. 340 by Pamela Villarreal and Baruch Feigenbaum August 2012
Dallas Headquarters:12770 Coit Road, Suite 800Dallas, TX 75251
972.386.6272
Washington Ofce:
 
601 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,
Suite 900, South BuildingWashington, DC 20004202.220.3082
 ISBN #1-56808-219-3www.ncpa.org/pub/st340
 
A Survey on the Economic Efects o Los Angeles County’s Plastic Bag Ban
2
the ban area reduced their employment by more than10 percent. Stores outside the ban area increased theiremployment by 2.4 percent.Many stores also began purchasing reusable bags. While43 percent of stores in the ban area had not purchasedreusable bags before, every store purchased these bags
after the ban. And nearly half of these stores (48 percent),lost money on reusable bags. Of the stores that lost money,
38 percent expected the losses to stop after one month tothree months, another 38 percent thought the losses would
continue indenitely. In order to stop losing money, 29
percent of stores ceased providing free reusable bags, and
another 36 percent increased prices on these bags. Most
stores also lost money on paper bags.The study also examines the economic,environmental and health effects of bag bans and
analyzes their potential costs and benets. Plastic
bags are better for the environment than reusable orpaper bags. For an equivalent amount of groceries,production of paper bags requires three times asmuch total energy and recovers only 1 percent of thatenergy through combustion. Paper bags also produce
substantially more landll waste. For an equivalent
amount of groceries, single-use plastic bags produce15.5 pounds of waste while paper bags produce nearly75 pounds of waste.Paper bags also produce more greenhouse gases.
Plastic bags generate 68 percent fewer greenhouse
gases than composted paper bags. Plastic bagsconsume 71 percent less energy during productionthan paper bags. Reusable bags may be the worst of all. Such bags need to be used 104 times to be lesspolluting than plastic bags. However, such bags areused only 52 times on average.Policymakers’ targeting of plastic bags isunfortunate. Banning or taxing such bags reduceseconomic activity and increases unemployment.However, plastic bags are less harmful to theenvironment than either paper or reusable bags. Thereare no economic or environmental reasons for banningor taxing plastic bags.
About the Authors
Pamela Villarreal
is a senior policy analyst with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Villarreal isan expert on retirement, Social Security, economic growth and tax issues and has authored studies and
analyses on specic topics, including the danger of 401(k) borrowing, Social Security disability, the
expiration of tax cuts and the future of Social Security and Medicare. Villarreal blogs about these topicsand more at www.retirementblog.ncpa.org.Villarreal has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Applied Economics from the University of Texas atDallas.
Baruch Feigenbaum
is a policy analyst at Reason Foundation. Feigenbaum has a diversebackground researching transportation issues including public-private partnerships, high-speed rail,highway funding, land use, government spending and ports.Prior to joining Reason, Feigenbaum worked for U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland ontransportation and environmental issues on Capitol Hill. He earned his master’s degree in City andRegional Planning with concentrations in Transportation and the Environment from the GeorgiaInstitute of Technology. Feigenbaum holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Georgia StateUniversity.
 
3
Introduction
Grocers and other retailers nation-wide pack consumers’ purchases inplastic bags. However, a growingnumber of jurisdictions — includingLos Angeles County, and cities suchas Austin and Seattle — have banned
the use of thin-lm plastic bags.Other local governments, such as the
Washington, D.C., city council, haveimplemented a per-bag tax.This study reports the resultsof a new survey conducted by theNational Center for Policy Analysisregarding the plastic bag ban recentlyimplemented in Los Angeles County.It also examines the economic,environmental and health effects of bag bans and analyzes their potential
costs and benets.
1
 Banning plastic bags causes
signicant economic harm.
Proponents of plastic bag bansprimarily argue that such bansreduce the amount of waste entering
landlls, lessen litter problems, help
protect the environment and reducepetroleum consumption. However,none of these claims is supportedby facts. Banning plastic bans isharmful to local economies and is
not environmentally justied.
Economic Effectsof the Los AngelesCounty Bag Ban
In 2011, the Los Angeles CountyBoard of Supervisors passed anordinance outlawing retailers’ use of 
thin-lm polyethylene bags to pack 
consumers’ purchases. The bag banwas implemented in unincorporated
areas (outside of city limits) of Los
Angeles County in two stages. At
rst, the bag ban applied to large
stores —with gross annual sales of at least $2 million or with 10,000square feet of retail space
 
effectiveJuly 1, 2011. The second stage of the ban included storeswith grossannual sales of less than $2 million orless than 10,000 square feet of retailspace
 
and became effective January1, 2012. These stores includedsmallgrocery stores, drug stores andconvenience stores.County leaders assumed that theordinance would eliminate the useof plastic bags and leave consumers
with two choices: 1) shoppers could
bring a personal reusable bag or othercontainer to carry their goods, or
2) consumers could pay for a paper 
bag, with the fee acting as a penaltyor deterrent to this option. When thecounty conducted its Environmental
Impact Report (EIR) in 2009 it stated:
Should the proposed ordinancesbe adopted, it is anticipated thatthere would be a transition periodduring which consumers wouldswitch to reusable bags. The Countyanticipates that a measurablepercentage of affected consumerswould subsequently use reusable bags
(this percentage includes consumerscurrently using reusable bags) once
the proposed ordinances take effect.The County further anticipates thatsome of the remaining consumers,those who choose to forgo reusablebags, may substitute plastic carryoutbags with paper carryout bags.
2
These were the only two choicescounty leaders considered. Theyfailed to consider a third option: thatconsumers would shop at storesunaffected by the ban — that is,stores in the incorporated areasof Los Angeles County. They didnot consider the possibility thatcommerce would migrate, or bedisplaced, due to the law. In orderto determine the effectiveness andconsequences of the Los AngelesCounty plastic bag ban, the NCPAconducted a survey of 80 large stores
(supermarkets and variety stores)
affected by the ban beginning in July2011. Additionally, each large store inunincorporated Los Angeles Countywas matched with one or two otherstores within two miles and alsoin an incorporated area. The storeswere matched in order to comparethe effect of any displacement of commerce due to the ban.The NCPA also contactedanother list of 700 smaller storesin unincorporated areas that wereaffected by the ban beginning January1, 2012. Through letters, phone calls,emails and follow-up personal visits,NCPA staff sought responses to thesurvey from store managers. Theresponse rate was 3 percent. [SeeAppendix I for the telephone scriptused.] [For a list of the questionsasked, see Appendix II.]
Impact on Sales.
Followingthe ban, sales increased at stores inincorporated cities compared with
stores in unincorporated areas. Of the
respondents to the survey:
Over a one-year period (pre-and post-bag ban), 60 percent
of stores in incorporated areasreported an increase in salesaveraging 9 percent. 
Fourth-fths of the stores in the
Insert callout here.
 
“A growing number of  jurisdictions have banned 
the use of thin-lm plastic bags.”

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