Generative AI and Discovery of Preferences for Single-Use Plastics Regulations


  • Catharina Hollauer Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Jorge Garcelán University Charles III of Madrid
  • Nikhita Ragam Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Tia Vaish Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Omar Isaac Asensio Georgia Institute of Technology Harvard University



Climate Change, Plastics Regulation, Sustainability, Generative AI


Given the heightened global awareness and attention to the negative externalities of plastics use, many state and local governments are considering legislation that will limit single-use plastics for consumers and retailers under extended producer responsibility laws. Considering the growing momentum of these single-use plastics regulations globally, there is a need for reliable and cost-effective measures of the public response to this rulemaking for inference and prediction. Automated computational approaches such as generative AI could enable real-time discovery of consumer preferences for regulations but have yet to see broad adoption in this domain due to concerns about evaluation costs and reliability across large-scale social data. In this study, we leveraged the zero and few-shot learning capabilities of GPT-4 to classify public sentiment towards regulations with increasing complexity in expert prompting. With a zero-shot approach, we achieved a 92% F1 score (s.d. 1%) and 91% accuracy (s.d. 1%), which resulted in three orders of magnitude lower research evaluation cost at 0.138 pennies per observation. We then use this model to analyze 5,132 tweets related to the policy process of the California SB-54 bill, which mandates user fees and limits plastic packaging. The policy study reveals a 12.4% increase in opposing public sentiment immediately after the bill was enacted with no significant changes earlier in the policy process. These findings shed light on the dynamics of public engagement with lower cost models for research evaluation. We find that public opposition to single-use plastics regulations becomes evident in social data only when a bill is effectively enacted.






Artificial Intelligence and Climate: The Role of AI in a Climate-Smart Sustainable Future