Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type


Program or Major

Resource Administration and Management

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

John Halstead

Second Advisor

Clayton Mitchell

Third Advisor

Catherine Ashcraft


Plastic bags provide cost-effective, ease of use utility to communities, while also producing disposal and blight costs in the United States. The role of policies to target their usage has not been fully considered, partially due to the state-centric model of waste policy implementation, independent local government actors, and the absence of an overarching model for assessing effectiveness of plastic bag policies. Due to this oversight, this study examines the plastic bag policy process. Existing literature ignores the emergence of plastic bag take-back programs, recycling programs, and much of the action taken in states, other than New York and California, to combat plastic bag pollution. Furthermore, there are no clear lines showing the motivation for plastic bag policy action. The main objectives of this thesis are to 1) understand the effectiveness of bans, levies, take-back programs, and recycling programs; and 2) establish the groundwork for when bans, levies, take-back/recycling programs are useful, so communities can use this information as a framework for plastic bag policies. In order to examine these objectives the following research question will be addressed:

Under what conditions is a ban, fee, or a take-back/recycling program best to address the end of life attributes of plastic bags in the waste stream?