If Dallas Wants to Ban Plastic Bags, It Should Be Prepared to Get Sued by Retailers

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Seathos Foundation
The city of Dallas is "maybe a year or two" away from considering a plastic bag ban, assistant city manager Jill Jordan told City Council members on Monday. First there will be a study to figure out its potential impact and exactly how many bags plastic bags there are in the city.

It might also be wise to develop a game plan for dealing with the inevitable lawsuits. Austin, which is set to begin enforcing its plastic bag ban on Friday, was just sued by the Texas Retailers Association, which claims the measure violates state law. In California, Oakland, San Francisco and other cities have faced similar legal challenges, most if not all coming from the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which has a website dedicated largely to detailing the evils of paper and reusable bags. By STPBC own accounting, those suits have had mixed success.

STPBC's main strategy in the California cases was to have courts force cities to perform extensive, and costly, environmental impact studies it says are required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

In Texas, the argument is different. In its court filing, the Texas Retailers Association argues that law bars municipalities from implementing product bans without the legislature's OK.

"Texas law is clear: a city may not ban bags, unless authorized by the state to do so, which it has not," the suit, as reported by Courthouse News, states. "But this is exactly what Austin did."

Specifically, the retail group points to a portion of Texas' health and safety code stating that local governments "may not adopt an ordinance, rule, or regulation to prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law." And nowhere is there a measure on the books that gives cities the OK to ban plastic bags, they say.

The city of Austin is undeterred and is moving forward to implement the measure. It remains to be seen what the court determines, which will likely weigh heavily on Dallas' plans moving forward.

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17 comments
casiepierce
casiepierce

Should we assume that our very own public law firm has already researched the legalities of this?

roo_ster
roo_ster

Boy, I sure get tired of all these goobers who want to impose their psychological hangups on everyone via gov't force.  If you want to increase your risk of food poisoning and forgo plastic bags for reusable bags, more power to ya.  If you want to cut down mega-acres of trees to get your paper bag fix, bully for you if the grocery store caters to your idiosyncrasy.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

That part of the Health and Safety code is very specific, my question is who was responsible for writing it in that matter, and what contributions/benefits from the (presumably) plastics industry did they receive?

I'm sympathetic to the goal of no plastic bags but wonder if it is feasible to implement. If stores have an increased expense from paper it is an inequitable imposition. It is more feasible to mandate the bags must be compostable.

What I do wish we had is a deposit on plastic bottles. It is ridiculous the number of them that are in the streets and medians, much less the amount seen in the creeks after a storm rolls thru. Place a nickel on each one and we'll have very few laying around.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

Simple solution: Stores required to print identifying names, addresses and logos on each bag. For each bag returned, store must pay 5 cents.

s.aten
s.aten

I bet it costs $500,000 for the study.

DMZ3
DMZ3

Austinite/ex-Dallasite here. I like the ban, in general. Plastic bag waste costs the city quite a lot of money because they junk up the waste processing machines. I'm actually not much of an environmentalist, but I use the reusable bags anyways because they're more convenient. (Yes, they are.) 

The city has really shit the bed on telling people about it, though. A lot of businesses seem completely oblivious that this thing is supposed to hit starting Friday.

Tom434
Tom434

If it takes Dallas two years to consider it we should know if a ban would be legal.  Besides what are people going to use to pick up dog shit

hix.miblue.john
hix.miblue.john

I dont think that taxpayer money should be spent defending the city from law suits resulting from feel good bans that the elected city council thinks up. Change the civil law so that any law suits resulting from edicts made like this are directed personally at those that pass them out. 

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

How am I supposed to clean Monte's litter box?

Now I have to buy plastic bags to throw away?

Ridiculous.


Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I'm sure one of the councilpersons has a plastics manufacturer contributing to them, therefore it'll never happen. If not there's your chance at more corruption for personal gain, DCC.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@mavdog As a kid, I spent many a summer day wandering around collecting bottles to redeem for the deposit. Remember when cokes came in a glass bottle, and you had to pay the deposit at the store?


roo_ster
roo_ster

@mavdog I would like to see the provision broadened to cover most or all products legal for sale in Texas.

DMZ3
DMZ3

@Tom434 Plastic bags aren't technically banned. You'll still be able to buy them in the aisle with the garbage bags and cleaning supplies and stuff. You just can't get free single-use bags that are used to pack your stuff at the counter.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Montemalone Ive figured how to re-purpose my Diaper Genie my mom gave us, Ill give it back to her when my son is not wearing diapers anymore and she can dispose cat poo in that thing

DMZ3
DMZ3

@Montemalone You'll figure it out. If you can't afford cat-poo bags, then you probably shouldn't own a cat.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@DMZ3 @Montemalone but why pay for them when they were sorta free, I mean you did have to spend $150 in groceries to get a weeks worth cat poo bags.

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