Take Action > Toolkit: How to Ditch Disposable Bags

Toolkit: How to Ditch Disposable Bags




Getting to Zero Waste is about more than just changing individual behavior. It’s about engaging citizens, young and old, to use our collective power to change the system around us. We need systems that reward reusable, recyclable and compostable over disposable–and plastic and paper bags are a great place to start.

A fee on disposable bags is a highly visible program that impacts every resident. The policy sends a clear signal that reducing waste is important to your community and everyone has a role to play. And that small shift in behavior starts to change the conversation about other Zero Waste programs for your community that can help reduce, reuse and recycle more valuable resources.


In most communities, there is passionate disdain for plastic bags. But while plastic bags are the poster child of plastic pollution in our waterways, paper bags are far from benign or better—they require more water to produce and more energy to transport, leaving a bigger climate footprint.

So what is the best action to meet both its Zero Waste goal and climate commitment? The focus is not just on reducing plastic bags, but moving toward a community that reduced its use of all single-use, disposable products and packaging. A fee on both paper and plastic bags to minimize our consumption of resources and our climate impact is a clear choice of making this goal and commitment happen.


There are more than a hundred bag policies across the U.S., which means there are lots of resources to help your community move forward.

We looked at all of the toolkits available and done the research to make it easier for you to connect you to the best resources you need to implement a disposable bag fee in your community. Why you should you trust our review? Because we adopted a bag fee in our town in 2011 (see our story below) that cut bag use nearly 70% in the first year.

Our Top Toolkit: Bag It Town

Watch the documentary movie “Bag It” and you’ll not only be committed to using less plastic in your own life, you’ll be inspired to adopt a bag fee in your town. And you’re in luck, because along with a great movie the Bag It team also created a fantastic  toolkit to make it easy for citizens and communities to implement a plastic bag fee policy. The combination of real world examples, helpful links and down-to-earth language make this toolkit the most comprehensible and versatile for anyone looking to make a difference.

Here’s what you’ll find inside:

  • Sample ordinances and guidelines for creating an ordinance
  • How-to tips for engaging the public to support the campaign
  • Ideas for forming important connections with partner organizations and retailers
  • Presentation videos used by other campaigns
  • Sample petition letter for local retailers
  • Sample letter to elected officials

Another Great Resource: Rise Above Plastics Activist Toolkit

This toolkit’s main focus is on enacting a carryout bag ordinance, but you can also apply the process to a foam food ware ordinance, smoke-free beaches or other campaign to reduce plastic pollution. Targeted at the average citizen looking for more information and next steps, this toolkit can be applied to any city in the country by any type of person. And for those who are not ready to start a plastic reduction ordinance, there are also resources to help out with education and awareness efforts

Here’s what you’ll find inside:

  • How to make the switch to public policy ordinances that stand out regarding bags
  • Six steps to a plastic reduction ordinance
  • Call to action for next steps



It was a passionate and persistent group of high school students that pushed Boulder, Colorado to adopt a 10-cent fee on disposable bags in 2011.

This fee is a hands-down success, cutting bag use by nearly 70% in the first year. Despite all the voluntary efforts Boulder tried over the years and its strong environmental ethic, it appears that making people part with their hard-earned money is a tried-and-true way to change behavior. Read more about Boulder’s bag fee and get inspired to pass your own >


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