in Houston, Texas
Austin bag ban worth it ‘no matter what it costs,’ activist says; costs inflated by three-and-a-half times in city of Austin report
Thursday, Jan 12, 2012, 03:46PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

The true cost of the problem of disposable bags in Austin does not figure into the need to outlaw them, the director of Austin Resource Recovery told the city’s Solid Waste Advisory Commission Wednesday night.

Bob Gedert told the commission the $850,000 a year estimate of the cost to deal with plastic bag waste in Austin had been inflated by more than three-and-a-half times because he had used a wrong percentage from another report.

The author of the extensive Keep America Beautiful litter study, Steven Stein, brought the error to Gedert’s attention in an e-mail on Tuesday.

Gedert, who has not responded to Stein, told the commission at a public meeting at Austin City Hall the error would have no bearing on the city’s disposable bag policy or the ordinance he has been working on for more than a year. The City Council has been aiming for March to vote on the final draft.

Gedert, contacted repeatedly over two days, has not responded to inquiries by Texas Watchdog.

“We support this bag ban no matter what it costs,” said Stacy Guidry, who attended the meeting and is the program director for Texas Campaign for the Environment. “Whether the cost is $850,000 or $250,000 doesn’t matter. We’ve been working on this for six years. This ban is long overdue.”

Getting the actual cost issue out of the way must be a relief in light of all the work that remains to be done on the ordinance with which Gedert told the Commission he has been tinkering, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Having once considered proposing 2016 and 2013, Gedert said he now thinks the ban on disposable bags ought to go into effect in March of 2014.

Gedert has tried on different dates for an interim period where the retailers targeted by the ban - mostly grocers and big box stores - would charge their customers a fee for each disposable bag they needed. He is now considering March of 2013.
Stacy GuidryStacy Guidry

No longer tethered to cost figures, Gedert told the Commission he is thinking retailers should charge customers $1 for each time they need disposable bags, rather than a fee of a dime or a quarter for each bag, the Statesman story says.

In the past Gedert has said the city would collect a major portion of the fees collected by retailers to pay for a campaign to educate residents about the disposable bag ban.

Guidry said her group would prefer to dispense with the fees altogether and get on with the ban, although she said educating the public will be very important.

“People are going to see this as a tax, there’s going to be some push back,” Guidry said.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of groceries by flickr user Librarian by Day, used via a Creative Commons license.
Thursday, 01/19/2012 - 10:10AM

This is my favorite and an often used rebuttal:

We have been working on this for so long and have so much time and effort toward this goal that it no longer matters what the cost or savings will be.

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