Starting with a very late night discussion and early morning vote, on March 2nd, the city council unanimously approved the single use plastic bag ban that has been hotly debated over the past year. The ordinance goes into effect on March 1, 2013 and unlike some previous proposals there will be no interim fee on disposable bags. As a result of the new ordinance retailers will only be able to offer reusable bags , those made of cloth fabrics or more durable materials, and paper and plastic bags of sufficient thickness and with handles.
Disposable or single-use bags used for meat, produce and bulk foods will be exempt from the new ordinance, as well as, restaurant carry-out and delivery, newspaper delivery, and dry cleaning. Additionally, charities and nonprofits that distribute food and other items to the needy will still be able to utilize disposable plastic bags.
The Central Texas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, applauds the city council for their forward thinking efforts, and looks forward to assisting communities throughout Texas with future single-use plastic education and ordinances.
Surfrider Foundation Central Texas Chapter strongly supports the steps that the Austin City Council took on 8/2/11 towards banning plastic bags at retail and grocery store checkouts in Austin. The unanimous vote to move forward with the process is currently being written by city staffers, and was introduced to the council. The ban proposal would take place gradually, and the city staffers are currently looking at a possible ban on paper bags, plastic bags, and looking at the possibly charging fees for so-called single-use bags instead of banning them outright. The proposal will be introduced in the beginning of 2012, and they will also be reviewing whether or not small stores would have to adhere to the same regulations.
We are very excited for this initiative, as Austin would be the first large city in Texas to ban plastic bags. Other cities such as Brownsville have bans in place.
The main opposition to plastic bags is that are an environmental scourge – polluting waterways, clogging drainage systems and taking up landfill space, where they don’t biodegrade. You can visit our Rise Above Plastics campaign to find out more about how you can help prevent the waste that occurs with single use plastics.
Austinites use 263 million plastic bags a year, and they cost the city and taxpayers about $850,000 a year to clean up as litter and put in landfills, according to city estimates.
To see more updates on the Ban The Bag Initiative in Austin check our Facebook Page.