Offering disposable shopping bags to customers will be a crime in Austin beginning in 2016 should the City Council pass an ordinance drafted by the director of Austin Resource Recovery.
The City Council is expected to consider the ordinance and may vote on it sometime in January.
Austin Resource Recovery's Bob Gedert’s draft eases some but not all shoppers into one of the stiffest bans on plastic and paper bags in the country by collecting a fee for the city from the 25 cents charged for each city-approved thin disposable shopping bag beginning in 2013, the story says.
Retailers would turn over to the city 22.5 cents of each charge to pay for an advertising campaign promoting reusable bags. To help get Austinites started, Texas Watchdog would like to suggest something in a hemp burlap, eight times stronger than cotton and less energy intensive to produce; or perhaps a recycled Cambodian rice bag; or this lovely Flotsam & Jetsam Reusable Tote.
With a full head of steam in 2016, the city would prohibit big retailers, particularly grocery stores, from offering anything other than thick paper bags made from 100 percent recycled content or thick plastic bags comprised of no less than 50 percent recycled content.
Retailers will be required to print "reusable and recyclable" on the bags and to festoon their stores with signs praising the benefits of what the city is forcing them to do.
Gedert told the Statesman his department would not be actively enforcing the ban and the fees but would give shoppers the opportunity to report store management, who could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
The draft, unaccountably, exempts grocers from the ban if they are bagging meat, fish, produce, bulk foods or pharmaceuticals. Restaurant owners will be allowed to bag carry-out orders and leftovers in disposable bags. Liquor stores, dry cleaners and newspaper delivery boys may still wrap their goods in disposables.
Nor does the ordinance address the growing scourge of shopping cart waste, thousands of tons of precious metals going into their manufacture every year, only to be found, abandoned, in culverts and apartment complex parking lots.
As they argued in August (read the earlier Texas Watchdog story by clicking here) when the council asked Gedert to draw up a plan for disposable bags, representatives for the Texas Retailers Association say the ban selectively targets major grocers and retailers and will come down inordinately hard on lower income shoppers.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.
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Photo of groceries by flickr user Mr. iMaax, used via a Creative Commons license.