Plastic Bag Legislation in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Diffusion of Innovation Study

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In 2007, San Francisco adopted the first plastic bag ban in the United States. Since then 55 jurisdictions in the San Francisco Bay Area have adopted similar ordinances. Using diffusion of innovation theory, this study examines the determinants of plastic bag policy adoption in the nine-county Bay Area region. The diffusion of Bay Area plastic bag policies was mainly determined by the plastic bag industry’s legal challenges, subsequent judicial decisions, and the sharing of financial and informational resources between higher-level jurisdictions and their participating agencies. Ancillary drivers of policy adoption were the support from an advocacy organization and the need for jurisdictions to comply with overarching environmental policies. Demographic analysis showed that a jurisdiction’s political party preference and population size had a significant relationship with the timing of adoption.

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