Analysis of the Plastic-Bag Levy in South Africa

Policy Paper 18
Author(s): 
Johane Dikgang, Anthony Leiman and Martine Visser
Publication date: 
July, 2010

Policy makers in many countries have perceived plastic-bag littering, its associated waste disposal and consumer behaviour as a cause of environmental problems. It is for this reason that many governments are now taking action. The plastic-bag legislation in South Africa combined elements of regulation with a levy per bag, similar to that applied by the Irish, in an effort to reduce the consumption of these bags. Charging for bags ensued in May 2003 with a fixed nominal price of 46 rand cents for 24-litre bags across all retailers. The level of the levy charge in South Africa is too small; hence, it has only been successful in reducing plastic-bag demand in the short term. Over time, the effectiveness of the levy is diminishing despite its comprehensive application at checkout points. Hence, the findings of this study suggest that the levy has failed partially. It is evident that the levy should be set sufficiently high if consumer behaviour is to be influenced.

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