Back to Top

It's in the bag? The effect of plastic carryout bag bans on where and what people purchase to eat

AAEA Member releases new research in AJAE

While the primary effects of plastic bag bans on bag usage have been well studied, what are the unintended effects of bag bans at the grocery store?

In the new article “It's in the bag? The effect of plastic carryout bag bans on where and what people purchase to eat” published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Rebecca Taylor from the University of Sydney finds out if banning plastic bags change where people purchase food. Taylor finds that a small share of people—roughly 1.8% of grocery sales—bypass the bag bans, either by cross-border shopping at grocery stores in unregulated jurisdictions or by shifting to unregulated restaurants.

Taylor says, “This level of consumer policy avoidance is not enough to undermine the effectiveness of the bans at reducing plastic bags usage. Even with cross-border shopping, California bag bans lead to 4.5 billion fewer plastic bags used per year.”

She continues, “However, with respect to food sales, bag bans create both winners and losers. The results suggest that local governments where cross-border shopping is likely to occur (e.g., densely populated jurisdictions with close neighbors) may want to compensate food-at-home businesses located on their borders for losses in sales from bag bans. Additionally, local governments may want to extend bag regulations to restaurants to reduce consumers’ incentives to shift their purchases toward food-away-from-home establishments.”

If you are interested in setting up an interview, please contact Allison Ware in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit

Contact: Allison Ware
Senior Communications Manager
(414) 918-3190