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Socioeconomic Impacts of Sustainability Practices in the Production and Use of Carrier Bags

Although the negative environmental impact of plastic carrier bags has long been known, their use in Europe continues undiminished. Lithuania stands out for its high use and production of plastic bags. Governments and sustainability-driven businesses are taking various measures to reduce the environmental impact. Such measures include strategies to replace conventional plastic bags with paper or bioplastic bags, to reduce plastic bags by encouraging consumers to reuse them, and similar strategies. In contrast to the environmental impact of plastic bags, the socioeconomic effects of strategies to reduce their use have been much less studied in the scientific literature. Therefore, this paper analyses the impact of sustainability practices in the producing and using of carrier bags on Lithuania’s gross domestic product (GDP), employment and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This study uses the CleanProdLT computable general equilibrium model based on the latest available data for 2020. The model allows for analysis of economy-wide effects by considering cleaner production and more sustainable consumption scenarios at different levels of detail. The results of the analysis show that while the analysed substitution of plastic bags with bioplastic (BioPlastic scenario) or paper bags (PaperBags scenario) has positive socioeconomic impacts, the overall best results can be achieved by reducing their consumption (ConsReduction scenario). In detail, it is estimated that the GDP could increase by EUR 18 million under the PaperBags scenario, by EUR 47 million under the BioPlastic scenario, and by EUR 64 million under the ConsReduction scenario. At the same time, employment increases by 213 jobs, 891 jobs, and 449 jobs, respectively. While the PaperBags and the BioPlastic scenarios reveal increases in GHG emissions of 4.5 ktCO2eq. and 29 ktCO2eq., respectively, the ConsReduction scenario demonstrates a decrease in GHG emissions of 4 ktCO2eq.. These findings suggest that the recent policy decision to charge for plastic bags in supermarkets will have positive environmental and socioeconomic impacts in the future.

Publication date: 07/08/2023

Author: Vidas Lekavi?ius

Reference: doi: 10.3390/su151512060

MDPI (sustainability)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.