The City Is Marching Toward a Plastic Bag Ban

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Via.
In a weekend story previewing the City Council's discussion today on single-use plastic bags, the Dallas Morning News ran a photo of a tattered Kroger bag snagged on a barbed wire fence, downtown Dallas looming as a backdrop.

"What I want to hear is who's going to go get these bags off this barbed wire," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said, taking the floor after a briefing by Frank Camp, the city's environmental director. "This is on there today. If we do not get it off today and it stays there another year, there's gonna be five more bags on this wire and five years from now there's gonna be even more bags on this barbed wire. Who's gonna go clean up this barbed wire?"

He turned to Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata. "Do we have people climbing up on this barbed wire in the cold taking down these bags. Mr. Zapata?"

"No, sir," Zapata replied.

Caraway thundered on: "At some point in 2015 or 2018, someone's gonna have to bear the costs of cleaning up these bags off this barbed wire. ... The grocery stores aren't cleaning 'em up." Here he paused to whisper a word of greeting to Kroger rep Gary Huddleston, who was in the audience. "They're selling them, but they're not cleaning them up." And neither is anyone else, seemed to be his gist.

Camp summed it up much more succinctly in his briefing: "We have bags in the street, bags in the water, bags in the trees. It's an environmental problem."

And what to do about it? There are a few options, like continuing the current (and largely ineffective) voluntary bag reduction program; if the city wants to lobby lawmakers in hopes of changing the state law that currently prohibits it, they can force retailers to charge a fee for single-use plastic bags; or, they can simply kick the can down the road and wait on the results of a "litter-proliferation study."

Or, they can take Caraway's lead and shoot for an all-out ban. "We have a problem," Caraway says. "And I'm the one bold enough to address it."

The proposed ordinance would ban all single-use carryout bags, paper or plastic. Dry-cleaning bags, newspaper bags, dog-crap bags, garbage bags, yard waste bags would be exempted, as would some paper and plastic bags used by restaurants and pharmacies. Otherwise, it applies to all business establishments. The entire ordinance is here.

The momentum seems to be with him, unlike when the proposal previously surfaced five years ago. Several Texas cities have since implemented bag bans, among them Austin, Brownsville, and South Padre Island. And while Caraway's colleague's expressed some concern about the cost of a public education campaign (Austin's was $890,000) and the impact on consumers, the sentiment was generally positive. The two committees that considered the proposal today passed it along to the full City Council for a vote, probably in August.

There are still some details to be worked out, particularly given Caraway's insistence that "the consumer should have to pay not one dime for these bags."

You might wonder, as Vonciel Jones Hill did, "Would not the cost of those bags be part of doing business, and aren't those costs passed along to consumers?" That would be the typical response of a business faced with rising costs, but Caraway has an equally market-driven proposal.

He used Coca Cola as an example. The company spends untold millions of dollars marketing its product to consumers. Why not spend some of those dollars putting its logo on reusable grocery bags? And not just Coca Cola. Other companies could do it too.

"Knowing advertising, it would behoove a company such as Coca Cola, such as Dr. Pepper and Pepsi, to put their name on a bag so we can continue to buy their product and [they can] use those bags as an incentive to buy their product."

So, problem solved. Let's hope the epidemic of obese diabetics has an equally elegant solution.

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107 comments
Jean_Knight
Jean_Knight

really a good and a must move to avoid plastic bag completely as they are not good for environment as well as for animals...last but not the least to decompose it is not possible

Angie Pace
Angie Pace

Hawaii bans them. It is horrible for the environment. I have a ton of reusable bags for shopping now. It is great! Stop whining and deal with it.

StupidHippies
StupidHippies

Maybe Caraway could extend his rap career and make a video about this. Hell, if he really wanted to do something he could start a company that recycles plastic bags into belts for his sagging pants constituents and rap about it. 

DMZ3
DMZ3

We've had a ban like this in Austin for a couple of months now. A lot of people were unhappy at first and it was this big story (with people saying it was going to cause a crisis, and business would leave the city, etc. etc.) but now no one cares.

Everyone got over it in like a day. When you go to the grocery store, you bring a couple of cloth bags with you. That's pretty much it. My apartment complex gave me mine. I haven't had to buy a single one. I have more than I actually use, in fact. (I'm also single and live alone. So I don't use much!)

Most of the grocery stores also now give you thick paper bags if you don't bring your own cloth bags, because they're thick enough (and have handles) so they qualify as "re-usable." It's a pretty minor, kind of non-story but people go absolutely apeshit over it at first, for reasons I don't understand.

Americano
Americano

Plastic bags came into use because paper bags were "killing all the trees".  The Law of Unintended Consequences, once again foisted on us because someone else knows better.  I wonder what the next LoUC will be when we ban plastic bags? 

Susan Durham
Susan Durham

Uhhh...sometimes people put them in trees to dissuade the filthy grackles that are everywhere. We should have more hawks!

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

Just today, I saw a young man with baggy pants.  And what do you guess the wind had blown from the local grocer over to hang off these deplorable baggy pants?  No less than one of those rascally plastic bags.  Also, Arthur and Archie are big time plastic bag lobbyists - no surprise there, amiright?

FEDUP
FEDUP

Ok, in the mid sixties the majority of businesses went from paper to plastic  because their made from trees, ya friggin tree lovers demanded it.  NOW ya want to ban plastic because their all over the place. You can't please you MORONS. SOLUTION: Never underestimate the benefits to sane people while considering your suicide, put yourself out of your misery. You want to clean up the city of trash, EMPTY THE JAILS AND PUT THEM TO WORK AS GARBAGE MEN/WOMEN, ya don't like that? Hire the homeless pay em to clean your trash up.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

The re-useable fabric bags should be banned as well, they are often used to transport products with non-organic packaging that never decomposes.

MisterMean
MisterMean

Give me a paper bag every time.   Does not fall over and dump the contents.  Use the paper bags afterwards as trash containers as they stand up on their own.   I concur on dumping plastic bags.


markzero
markzero

I can see the argument for banning the thin plastic bags we see blowing around, on the basis of environmental concerns, but paper bags aren't really subject to that, at least not as soon as they get rained on. Paper bags also aren't ingested by animals accidentally in the same numbers. Why are paper bags on the chopping block as well?

Joseph Bateman
Joseph Bateman

damn, now I cant carry about 8 or 9 bags of grocerys in one hand so I dont have to go back to the car for more. oh well I guess I can go shopping in Richardson now. lol

Barack
Barack

Yo who iz gonna pick up all da unlicensed pharmacist in Dallas?

cyrrndr
cyrrndr

How about instead of being concerned about how ugly the bard wire looks with a plastic bag on it, Caraway just walks over and takes it off? Hell I see a lot more empty bottles and cans lying around than I do plastic bags.

Michael Dupre
Michael Dupre

Looks like Houston will probably be next to ban them. That's what I'm hearing. If places like WalMart would try to fill the bags instead of putting just 1 or 2 items in the bag , it would help. if you are going to use you own cloth bags for groceries, be sure to wash them often to keep the sanitary.

Kyla Bussey
Kyla Bussey

most dog owners aren't going to buy special bags. they'll just leave it on the ground and call it "organic." It's just attention-getting & environmental pandering on the part of politicians - taking up time doing very little. How about some of the harder issues?

Judith Adams
Judith Adams

They're the best for scooping cat litter. Without the ones from the grocery store, I will just have to buy some for that purpose, plus lining small wastebaskets.

Jon Pitt
Jon Pitt

Well, it would be too bad to inconvenience people a little to help the environment...

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Dallas is about 1.3 million people, but there another 5.5 million living all around us. What happens when their bags blow into Dallas?

Carolyn Rowley
Carolyn Rowley

My son, who lives here, also keeps his cloth bags in the car. After he unloads them, he puts them on his stair rail, which is inside. so that he can't forget them. He has separate bags for every store where he shops. Entirely too organized.

Carolyn Rowley
Carolyn Rowley

I have had some of those. I will probably buy them again when the ordinance passes.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Bring back the sackers.

Matt Hendricks
Matt Hendricks

You can buy those small bags like the ones from the store.

LaSherra Green
LaSherra Green

Paper bags dont have any handles and are a pain when you have groceries. Now we have to spend money on cloth bags.

LaSherra Green
LaSherra Green

I'm so angry at those idiots too. I reuse my plastic bags all of the time for wastebaskets, my lunch, for dog waste, etc.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Never a issue since I bring my sack everywhere I go.

WylieH
WylieH

Mary Suhm loves it when the Council gets distracted by stuff like this.  While individual members jabber away about all sorts of hypotheticals (i.e., "it could cost $1,500,000!"-- "No, only $650,000!", "this is socialism!", "this is environmentally responsible!" blah, blah, blah), Suhm works quietly behind the scenes, entirely out of sight, making decisions about where tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions will be spent--- no one except Hunt and Griggs have a clue this is how the game is played.

JustSaying
JustSaying

I would love to see paper bags return to grocery stores. Since plastic became the only choice I've had way too many close calls with someone choking to death when I bring a two bagger home at last call.

Gilbert Schmitt
Gilbert Schmitt

It seems we got by just fine before plastic bags. Okay, so the lunch sandwich was a bit dry after being wrapped in wax paper but that did break down a lot quicker in the trash.

Amber Jaime
Amber Jaime

Why can't community service peeps do the clean up?

TheCrusher
TheCrusher

I think everything having the potential for negative repercussions should be banned. Who will decide? How about me? I'm pretty smart. I think cigarettes, pizza, motor oil, sharp knives, sugar, salt, fried chicken, big gulps, mashed potatoes, swimming pools, skateboards, pain killers, guns, fireworks, lead, amusement park rides, nuclear power plants, unprotected sex outside of a monogamous relationship, hamburgers, barbecue grills, air conditioning, alcoholic beverages, automobiles weighing over 1000 pounds, and suntanning should be the first things to go!

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Banning Plastic Bags -- something for Caraway to do instead of Something.

Mark Wootton
Mark Wootton

@Americano I like the idea of a plastic bag ban. However, it won't help if we switch to the type of cotton/canvas re-use we see so often unless we're REALLY good about actually reusing them. Apparently, it takes 171 uses of the type of bag Whole Foods sells to break even with the environmental impact of manufacturing one plastic bag.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/plastic-fantastic-carrier-bags-not-ecovillains-after-all-2220129.html

http://www.treehugger.com/culture/ask-pablo-are-plastic-bags-better-after-all.html?campaign=th_rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+treehuggersite+%28Treehugger%29 

observist
observist topcommenter

@Americano  No, plastic bags came into use because they were cheaper, lighter and stronger.  Saving trees had nothing to do with it.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Susan Durham You nasty hag!  Grackles are intelligent, intriguing creatures.

Mark Wootton
Mark Wootton

@FEDUP Good point, that group of 7 conscientious people that try to come up with ideas to make the world a better place has really been getting on our nerves for decades, centuries even. They're* all the same.

*See what I did there?

NewsDog
NewsDog

@ElFlaco714  Maybe they can bid on the contract to clean up all the bags snagged on all the barbed wire.  

DMZ3
DMZ3

@markzero I think it's for two reasons.

One, environmental concerns. Paper bags, it's alleged, take more energy to produce and transport than plastic, and take up more landfill space. The other reasons, I suspect, is political. Lobbyists from plastics manufacturers were one of the main drivers behind opposition to the Austin ban, and said: "If you ban plastic bags, then you're swapping out one pollutant for another. It doesn't solve the problem, so you shouldn't pass this ban." So the city went ahead and banned both.

The thing is, not all paper bags were banned. You get big, heavy, paper bags with handles at the grocery store now since they're "re-usable." I don't know if it has solved many environmental problems. But frankly it's such a non-issue anyways. The effect it has on the shopper is so minimal, and a lot more people are using the re-usable bags now. People really blow this stuff out of proportion.

Mark Wootton
Mark Wootton

@Amber Jaime They already do. What comes to mind when you think, "bureaucracy"? Now, apply that thinking to the folks that manage our city's mandatory community service programs, the ones that pick up trash, sort paper, dump and replace the trash cans at all city offices, along with other less desirable jobs to manage.

Americano
Americano

@observist @Americano 

 I don't know how old you are, but I was alive and paying attention then, and the hue and cry to save trees was a big part of it.  Rarely are decisions made for one reason only, so I would say it was both reasons.  However, the green movement, as they often do, wanted change and didn't really think about the Law of Unintended Consequences.

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