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  5. Results of A Nudge Approach Trial to Reduce Plastic Checkout Bags at Internal Government Stores

Results of A Nudge Approach Trial to Reduce Plastic Checkout Bags at Internal Government Stores

March 27, 2020

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Japan Patent Office (JPO), the Ministry of Finance (MOF), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) conducted a trial to reduce plastic checkout bags at in-house convenience stores, using a behavioral economics-based approach called “nudge," for three weeks, from January 27 (Mon.) to February 14 (Fri.), 2020. Going forward, the government will take advantage of the mandatory introduction of fee-incurring plastic checkout bags, coupled with a nudge approach, as a springboard for encouraging a lifestyle change among consumers in order to curb excessive use of one-way plastics.

1. Outline

Ahead of the nationwide mandatory introduction of fee-incurring plastic checkout bags scheduled for July 1, 2020, METI, JPO, MOF and MOFA implemented a trial to reduce plastic checkout bags at in-house convenience stores, using a behavioral economics-based approach called “nudge (*)," for three weeks, from January 27 (Mon.) to February 14 (Fri.), 2020.

*Nudge: The term “nudge,” which literally means pushing someone gently, and the nudge approach is a new policy approach to providing people with a well-designed method or framework based on knowledge in behavioral science and motivating them to spontaneously choose more desirable actions.

Specifically, the in-house stores participating in the trial requested consumers to present to the stores an intention-declaration card, which declares either an intention to use a plastic checkout bag ("use" card) or an intention not to do so ("non-use" card). The type of card used was varied across the participating stores in order to examine which type is effective in encouraging consumers to refrain from using plastic checkout bags.

List of participating stores

2. Results

At the stores that provided a plastic checkout bag as the default practice while requesting consumers who did not need a bag to present a "non-use" card, it was found that the non-use rate remained unchanged compared with before the trial.

On the other hand, at the store whose default practice was not providing a plastic checkout bag (while requesting consumers who needed a bag to present a "use" card), the non-use rate rose significantly. After the trial ended, the non-use rate remained at a relatively high level.

The above results indicate that while the effects of the use of the intention declaration card could not be evaluated precisely because of differences across stores in the type of card used and various other conditions, adopting the non-provision of a plastic checkout bag as the default practice may be effective in reducing the use of plastic checkout bags. Using images, such as printing a picture of marine litter on the card, may also be effective in this respect. Given that the non-use rate remained at a relatively high level after the end of the trial, the behavior pattern of refraining from using plastic checkout bags may be expected to take hold.

The mandatory introduction of fee-incurring plastic checkout bags is scheduled for July 2020. The government will use this, among other measures, as a springboard for encouraging a lifestyle change among consumers through the use of a nudge approach in order to curb excessive use of one-way plastics.

Division in Charge

Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Division, Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau

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