Dec 23 - Austin Proposes Strongest Bag Ban in Texas

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The City of Austin may become the next in Texas to pass a plastic bag ban--the strongest proposed in the state thus far. Austin has long been an environmental leader for the rest of the state (going 100% renewable energy last October), and this victory would pave the way for other communities in Texas to reduce single-use bag waste.

The current proposal to phase-in a bag ban with a temporary three-year 25 cent charge on all single-use bags in Austin would become effective January 1, 2013 if passed. After the transition period and starting in January 2016, the ordinance would allow only reusable paper, plastic or cloth bags for distribution.

The draft ordinance was discussed in a Solid Waste Advisory Commission on December 14, 2011. The Austin City Council had previously voted to move forward with drafting the ordinance in August, and will consider the draft ordinance sometime next year.

According to this article, Austin residents use 263 million plastic bags a year, costing local taxpayers $850,000 a year to process the bags in the city’s waste stream.

The same editorial in the Statesman expresses support of a ban on the ubiquitous and problematic plastic bag, but gave pause on a paper bag ban:

Our hesitation with extending the ban to include paper bags is that paper bags are part of Austin's curbside recycling program and thus are easy to recycle. Paper bags come from a renewable resource, trees. They hold more than plastic bags.

As an alternative to a ban on both paper and plastic bags, the city could also consider the option of banning single-use plastic bags and placing a minimum price requirement on recycled and recyclable paper bags.

This hybrid ordinance would still make Austin's ban the strongest in the state, since the existing ordinances in Brownsville, Fort Stockton, and South Padre Island do not restrict single-use paper bag distribution.

In fact, nearly a dozen local jurisdictions in California are already following this model with great success. See the list of all local bag ordinances in the country here.

Take action on local plastic bag ordinances.