Retailers urge state attorney general to overturn bag bans

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Dallas voted Wednesday to ban plastic bags at local retailers. It was similar to the ordinance Austin adopted more than one year ago.

The following bags are exempt from the Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance:

  • Laundry, newspaper, and waste bags:
    - Bags used for laundry dry cleaning bags, door-hanger bags, newspaper bags.
    - Packages of multiple bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or yard waste.
  • Pharmaceutical and veterinarian bags:
    - Bag must be made of paper and used only for prescription drugs or other medical necessities.
  • Restaurant bags:
    - Restaurant bag must be made of paper for take-away food. Single-use plastic bags are only allowed if necessary to prevent moisture damage, such as transportation of soups, sauces, salad dressing, and other liquids.
  • Non-Checkout Bags:
    - Bags used inside the business to contain bulk items, to wrap frozen foods, to prevent moisture damage, and to contain unwrapped foods such as baked goods (i.e. produce bags)
  • Charity Nonprofits:
    - Bags used by a nonprofit or other hunger relief organization to distribute food, clothing or other household items.

Source: City of Austin

But some retailers are calling on the state’s attorney general to overturn these ordinances as they question whether the bag bans align with the state’s health and safety laws.

Leaders from Texas cities with plastic bag bans gathered in Austin on Wednesday to tell the Attorney General how they feel.

“Let us keep our bag ban in place, and just stay out of this,” Darren Hodges, mayor pro tem of Fort Stockton, said. “We’ve passed this, and it works.”

“We don’t want to go back to the days when our fields were a sea of bags, and the bags were tangled in the fences, the trees,” said Evelyn Remmert, a Travis County rancher who lives near a landfill.

Aiden Cohen with Austin Resource Recovery calls the environmental impact of the bag ban in Austin significant, saying about 30 percent fewer bags now go into landfills.

“We are really proud of our business community here in Austin and the shoppers who have made small changes that have a big impact on our community,” Cohen said.

It’s a community that’s not afraid to speak up on the issue.

“Bag pollution is a threat to our health, and our welfare, and our communities,” Robin Schneider of Texas Campaign for the Environment said. “We call on the Attorney General today to keep his nose out of local governments business.”

Austin Resource Recovery also says fewer plastic bags are being found during lake and creek cleanups.

The Texas Retailers Association is against the plastic bag bans. They say the bans have a larger impact on lower income families, could impair existing recycling efforts, and are not a comprehensive solution to the problem.

The ttorney general’s office is expected to issue an opinion by September.

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