Two days ago the city of Los Angeles, CA became the largest city in the US to ban plastic grocery bags, following a host of other locations including San Fransisco (controversial ban imposed in 2007), Portland OR, and North Carolina's Outer Banks (more detail here).
Read about the LA decision here at Reuters News Service.
As we move toward discussing options for pollution control, a general theme that we'll consider is the effectiveness and efficiency of command-and-control alternatives (standards) including such bans relative to incentive-based systems like taxes and subsidies.
A more general question to consider is whether the optimal number of plastic bags is zero or some positive number.
Some places have used taxes/fees (Pigou's solution) to effectively remove most bags. Here are some examples:
Here is a thought-provoking take on the topic from Science and Development Network, basically calling for better management rather than an outright ban.
Obviously this is a controversial issue. What are the pros and cons of each approach? When is a outright ban a better choice? When might we opt for a tax/fee? What other pollution problems can be addressed with bans vs. Pigouvian taxes?