The impact of plastic bag levy on consumer demand for plastic bags in South Africa

Gelebe, Fhatuwani
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This paper provides the results regarding the effect of the plastic bag levy and discusses factors that influence the demand for plastic carrier bags in South Africa. In May 2003, South Africa introduced the plastic bag levy with the aim of influencing consumers to change their behaviour regarding their demand for plastic carrier bags, and to generate revenue for use for environmentally related projects. With the introduction of this levy, the South African Government set the target of reducing the demand by 50% by 2013. At the introduction of the levy, the charge per plastic bag was 3 cents. Since then, the levy has been revised twice. The first revision was from 3 cents to 4 cents in 2007, and the second revision was from 4 cents to 6 cents in 2013. The levy is collected by South African Revenue Service (SARS) as a value-added tax (VAT), which retailers are expected to pay when they file their VAT returns. The effect of the plastic bag levy on the demand for plastic carrier bags in South Africa resulted in a 72% reduction relative to the plastic carrier bags that the country was using prior to the implementation of the levy. The responses from consumers indicated that they have knowledge of and a positive attitude towards the plastic bag levy. However, the programme is failing to achieve significant results owing to lack of awareness plastic bag levy programme, government’s failure to publicise the programme, as well as the lack of availability of alternative carrier bags, higher prices of alternative bags, and tellers’ reluctance to promote alternative bags at retailers. This paper provides some recommendations that the country should implement to improve the status quo by ensuring that there is continuous awareness plastic bag levy, provision of affordable alternative bags, and continuous monitoring of the progress of the programme, which includes revising the levy and monitoring the number of plastic bags that are in demand.
Plastic bags , Shopping bags -- Taxation , Waste minimization -- Government policy -- South Africa