Manon's Econ Blog

Plastic bag or cloth bag?

Posted on: November 23, 2009

Taxing plastic bags in order stop people from wasting them is a great idea. Too many bags are thrown away everywhere.

The problem with the free plastic bag is that people tend to use more than necessary, “after all, it’s free!” But then, not all of them are thrown away properly, and many end up in nature. They need many years before disappearing.

In Japan, taxing plastic bags can have the same effect that in Ireland if people realize the troubles of throwing them away. Nevertheless, plastic bags seem to be potent in Japanese society, although people start to carry cloth bags.

Also, even if the plastic bag is taxed, there are still a kind of plastic bag (without a place for the hands) that can be found everywhere in shops, and in unlimited quantity; so I do not think that the taxation will have such a  great impact in Japan.

But, after a while, people will get used to the idea of cloth bag, and the demand should be more elastic (change in taste and preferences), as shown on the diagram below.

Less plastic bags will be demanded, but the demand for cloth bag (substitutes) will increase, as shown on the diagram below.

The same thing that happened in Ireland may happen in Japan, but it will take probably more time than it did in Ireland for people to stop using plastic bags.

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3 Responses to "Plastic bag or cloth bag?"

I completely agree with two important thing you pointed out, first it is a great idea to task plastic bags, and second, the taxation of plastic bags do not have a great impact on Japan. I know this because though plastic bags are taxed, while you are in store, cashiers give you the plastic bags for free if you ask for hem. For example, if you go to the co-op next to pour houses and buy a few items, you can ask for a bag and they will give it to you tax-free. At the same time, however, you will also notice that the bags are much smaller than they used to be.

Awesome blog post Manon!
You explain the situation very clearly and allowed me to have a good understanding of the problem with plastic bags. On top of that, the dynamic diagrams expresses it’s points concisely; I had understood them intuitively.

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