A ‘straight’ plastic bag ban generally means that ‘single-use’ carryout plastic bags under a certain thickness are banned. Paper bags and reusable bags, including plastic bags above the thickness requirement, are still available and often free. Very few ‘total bans’ on plastic bags, that do not include a minimum thickness requirement, exist.

These bans can include any combination of banning the use, sale, distribution, manufacture, import, or export of plastic bags, and can differ in the types of businesses included.

To maximize consumer behavior change and plastic bag reductions, policies should address other types of carryout bags, and encourage the switch to true reusables so that individuals don’t just switch from one type of disposable bag to another. Otherwise, straight plastic bag bans can result in a transition from:

  • Single-use plastic bags to single-use paper bags;
  • Thinner to thicker plastic bags that qualify as reusable;
  • Petroleum-based plastics to bio-based plastics and/or bio-degradables, oxo-degradables, and/or compostables.


Bangladesh – 1st country to pass a straight ban on all “polythene” plastic bags

Rwanda – 1st total ban in Africa – banned the manufacture, importation, use and sale of polyethylene bags



– Bans on thin plastic bags can result in replacement with thicker plastic bags that are marketed as ‘reusable’ but are oftentimes treated as single-use by consumers (i.e. Hawaii; Texas)

– In Morocco and Rwanda a black market for plastic bags was created, negatively affecting the reduction of plastic bag use