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The influence of a voluntary fee in the consumption of plastic bags on supermarkets from Madeira Island (Portugal)

Author

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  • Idalina Perestrelo Luis
  • Helder Spinola

Abstract

Since 2007, some supermarkets in Portugal have voluntarily abolished the free distribution of plastic bags, implementing a symbolic charge of €0.02 each at the same time that others still offer free plastic bags. This study assesses the influence of this voluntary measure on the reduction of plastic bags consumption, comparing clients from supermarkets that have adopted it with others who have free distribution. The reutilisation of bags reached 37% in supermarkets where customers pay a fee and was absent in supermarkets where plastic bags are free. Even the abstention of using bags, when clients buy only few products, is significantly higher in supermarkets where there are charges for plastic bags. The 2 cents charged has also induced a significant increase in optimal use of plastic bags since 52% of clients that pay for plastic bags use them so they are almost full, but only 17% do the same when they are free. Taken together, the different effects of charging for plastic bags represents a potential reduction of 64%. A mandatory tax on plastic bags is an important measure to reduce substantially the number of plastic bags consumed and to improve sustainability through the reduction of environmental, economic and social costs of pollution and waste management.

Suggested Citation

  • Idalina Perestrelo Luis & Helder Spinola, 2010. "The influence of a voluntary fee in the consumption of plastic bags on supermarkets from Madeira Island (Portugal)," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(7), pages 883-889.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jenpmg:v:53:y:2010:i:7:p:883-889
    DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2010.490054
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