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Consumer Responses to Incentive to Reduce Plastic Bag Use: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Urban India

  • Kanupriya Gupta
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    In this paper we test for appropriate policies that could help control the use of plastic bags in Delhi. In January 2009, the Government of Delhi introduced a wide-ranging ban on the use of plastic bags in market places. Our results showed a dilution in the efficacy of the ban within a year, with widespread lack of enforcement. About 94% of the consumers continue to use plastic bags in blatant violation of rules. This motivated us to examine the effects of other possible price and non-price instruments possibly requiring less monitoring and enforcement in order to control/reduce the use of plastic bags. We tested the effectiveness of these policies through field experiments in the semi-organized retail sector. The policy treatments included (i) provision of information to consumers, (ii) a cash-back scheme contingent on use of non-plastic bags and (iii) provision of substitutes for plastic bags. The results indicate that cumulatively these interventions increase the proportion of consumers who bring their own bags from 4.6% in the baseline to 17.7% post treatment. The number of consumers who would only use plastic bags came down on average from 80.8% to 57.1%. Hence, our study concludes that in developing countries with little enforcement capacity, a blanket ban may not be the best possible solution. Instead, low cost information interventions, availability of substitutes to plastic bags, and subsidies (taxes) on the use of reusable bags (plastic bags) could constitute an important policy-mix.

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    Paper provided by The South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics in its series Working papers with number 65.

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    Handle: RePEc:snd:wpaper:65
    Contact details of provider: Postal: South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics PO Box: 8975, EPC: 1056 Kathmandu, Nepal

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    1. Alexander Karaivanov, 2009. "Heterogeneity, returns to scale, and collective action," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 42(2), pages 771-807, May.
    2. Kant, Shashi, 2000. "A dynamic approach to forest regimes in developing economies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 287-300, February.
    3. Dayton-Johnson, Jeff, 2000. "Determinants of collective action on the local commons: a model with evidence from Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 181-208, June.
    4. Salvatore Di Falco & Charles Perrings, 2003. "Crop Genetic Diversity, Productivity and Stability of Agroecosystems. A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 50(2), pages 207-216, 05.
    5. E. Somanathan & R. Prabhakar & B.S. Mehta, 2002. "Collective action for forest conservation: Does heterogeneity matter?," Indian Statistical Institute, Planning Unit, New Delhi Discussion Papers 02-01, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India.
    6. Holden, Stein T. & Shiferaw, Bekele & Wik, Mette, 1998. "Poverty, market imperfections and time preferences: of relevance for environmental policy?," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(01), pages 105-130, February.
    7. Baland, Jean-Marie & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2000. "Halting Degradation of Natural Resources: Is There a Role for Rural Communities?," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198290612, March.
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