in Houston, Texas
Grocery bag ban -- one of the toughest in nation -- considered in Austin
Monday, Dec 12, 2011, 11:48AM CST
By Mark Lisheron

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 public is invited to discuss the criminalization of shopping bags at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday with the Solid Waste Advisory Commission at Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second St., according to a story today by the Austin American-Statesman.

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 or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of groceries by flickr user Mr. iMaax, used via a Creative Commons license.
Wednesday, 12/14/2011 - 03:55PM

This ban is good news for Plastic Bag companies. I work for one distributor. After Ireland banned shopping bags, it took several months for customers to use up their stash of grocery bags as household trash bags. Then plastic bag production increased 70 to 200% depending on the company. Some bag companies added a second shift. 300 new employees were hired. Customers had to go from reusing 6 gram plastic bags to buying costly 18 gram trash bags in cardboard boxes. Plastic tonnage into the landfills increased substantially. This unintended consequence is listed in all scientific Environmental Impact statements drafted worldwide. 6 gram plastic bags have the lowest environmental impact. Paper bags are the worst. You can't even get a permit to build a paper plant in the state given the massive land, air, and water pollution involved. We sell bags by the lb. Heavier bags with higher profit margins means a windfall for bag companies that make both shopping and trash can liner bags. Companies that only make shopping bags are opposed because they can't reap the increased profits.

reusable shopping bags
Saturday, 12/17/2011 - 04:39PM

Austin is doing a good job in implementing this because truly, we need to start doing our own contributions in helping our environment. The use of Reusable Shopping bags is a really good move.

Saturday, 01/07/2012 - 10:03AM

Reusable bags are made by slaves in Asia and contain lead.

Wednesday, 02/20/2013 - 08:17AM

Saw the same thing happen in another state 5 years ago. The "reusable" bags were found to have a high lead content, unsafe for food products, and also left particles in the air to breath.

Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" -
Peter Corbett ✈ | 7 years 10 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy
KERA Public Media | 7 years 10 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour.
PBS MediaShift | 7 years 10 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 7 years 10 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services"
TxDOT | 7 years 10 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact
© 2020 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement