Plastic bag bans are illegal, Abbott says

Single Use Bag Ordinance in Austin has removed 50,000 pounds of plastic from annual waste.

AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says municipal bans on single-use plastic bags are illegal.

In a five-page attorney general’s opinion Friday, the Republican gubernatorial nominee said a state law prohibits local governments from prohibiting, restricting or charging a fee, for solid waste management purposes, for “the use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law.”

“Whether a specific city’s single use plastic bag ordinance was adopted for such purposes will require a factual inquiry that is beyond the scope of an attorney general opinion,” the opinion read.

“None of these ordinances were about mere solid waste management,” said Robin Schneider, executive director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “They also seek to protect storm water, waste water and recycling infrastructure, end threats to wildlife, livestock, fishing and tourism and save the estimated $25 million per year these bags cost local taxpayers.”

Abbott acknowledges that the law does not define a single-use plastic bag as a “container or package.” However, he contends the bags fit the dictionary definitions of a container or package.

State Rep. Dan Flynn, a Dallas Republican, had sought the opinion after nine cities enacted ordinances banning the single-use bags. The opinion is non-binding but reflects the attorney general’s view of who would win a lawsuit on the subject.

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