Plastic bag policy: modifying consumer behaviour for sustainable development

Elaine Ritch, Carol Brennan, Calum McLeod

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    66 Citations (Scopus)


    The adverse environmental impacts of plastic bags, including production energy costs, limited lifespan, increasing landfill content and inability to biodegrade, provide symbolic and practical evidence of a ‘throwaway’ consumer culture which acts as a significant barrier to sustainable consumption in particular and sustainable development in general. Decoupling consumer behaviour from plastic bag use is therefore an important challenge in the pursuit of sustainable consumption as a precursor to achieving sustainable development. This article provides a critical evaluation of that challenge, set within the theoretical
    framework of sustainable development. It examines the adverse environmental impacts of plastic bag use and evaluates initiatives by governments and businesses internationally to change consumer behaviour regarding the use of plastic bags in line with sustainable development principles. The politics of this agenda are analysed using a combination of consumer policy and public policy perspectives. Finally, the article draws conclusions regarding the earlier analysis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)167-174
    Number of pages8
    JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


    • consumer principles
    • plastic bags
    • sustainable consumption
    • sustainable development


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