My local supermarket tried to charge for plastic bags then backed down because of customer protests.
In the UK, a compulsory 5p charge on plastic bags first resulted in a sharp drop consumption then a rise in in the use of plastic bags last year. It seems the immediate change in behaviour reaped by the new charges is short-lived and it doesn’t take long for old habits to re-emerge.
Attaching a cost to something that was free certainly reduces frivolous consumption, but if that cost that is too low can merely act to pay off one’s conscience.
Beware of putting a price on guilt and letting people down.
A classic paper from 2000, Gneezy and Rustichini studied what happened when day-care centres in Israel tried to reduce late parental pick-ups by introducing fines.
Before long, late pick-ups had not reduced, they had doubled. Why? Because parents felt that the fine was a price worth paying and the guilt which had previously controlled their behaviour was assuaged.