Dallas Set to Decide on Plastic Bag Ban on Wednesday

Categories: City Hall

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The Dallas City Council: evicting adorable cats since 2014.
It's entirely possible that the Dallas City Council will show up on Wednesday, argue for an hour or two, then decide that it's not quite ready to vote on banning plastic and other single-use carryout bags, Dwaine Caraway's March-vote-or-bust pledge be damned. But, thanks to a draft of the ordinance posted Friday night, we now have a better idea of what the council will be voting on.

There are still technically several options on the table, including an outright ban and a "responsible retailer" proposal, but the one on Wednesday's agenda is fee-based.

See also: Dallas Will Decide on Plastic-Bag Ban in March. For Real This Time.

A quick look at the proposed rule:

So, what bags will be banned?: In reality, none of them. Retailers who want to continue supplying "single-use carryout bags" can register with the city and charge customers an "environmental fee" of either $.10 per bag or $1 per transaction. The retailer is allowed to keep half of what it collects but can only use the fee to offset the cost of complying with the ordinance, offering $.05 rebates for reusable bags, and creating city-approved public education campaign to "inform customers on the importance of environmental stewardship."

The restrictions apply to all "single-use carryout bags," which the ordinance helpfully defines as "a carryout bag that is not a reusable carryout bag" -- basically plastic and paper grocery sacks.

See also: Retailers Turn to Greg Abbott in Fight Against Plastic Bag Bans

What bags are OK?: Reusable carryout bags -- cloth, plastic or paper -- which can successfully carry 16 pounds for 100 reuses (i.e. the "minimum reuse testing standard"). Specifically exempted from the rule are: laundry bags; newspaper bags; packages of garbage, yard waste and pet waste bags; bags used by nonprofits and charities to collect food and clothing; recyclable paper bags used by pharmacies, vets and carryout restaurants; and plastic sacks "used by restaurants to take away prepared food only where necessary to prevent moisture damage, such as for soups, sauces, salads with dressing and liquids."

Why?: The short answer is that, much like sagging pants, Dwaine Caraway doesn't like plastic bags. The longer answer is that plastic bags are a significant contributor to litter, they clog streams and get caught on fences and trees, and basically never decompose. Paper grocery bags take a lot of energy to produce, which is presumably why they are included.

What happens if Kroger or Tom Thumb keeps giving out free plastic bags?: Assuming the ordinance passes as written and is actually enforced, City Hall hits them with a $500 fine for each occurrence.

Will it pass?: A handful of council members -- most prominently Sheffie Kadane and Rick Callahan -- have in the past argued against regulations as anti-business, but Caraway says he has the votes for passage.

Is it a good ordinance?: Activists on both sides of the issue say no. Zac Trahan of the Texas Campaign for the Environment describes it as "a giveaway, a payday, for retailers. They will earn millions of dollars (by keeping half of the disposable-bag fee), but they will still publicly oppose the ordinance and then blame the city when their customers complain to them." Worse, Trahan says, the fee will incentivize them to keep giving customers as many bags as they can.

Lee Califf, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, told The Dallas Morning News the proposed rule was "draconian" and "would be terrible for consumers, small businesses and the environment alike."

Perhaps this means the city is striking the proper balance. Or perhaps the proposed ordinance is just terrible.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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75 comments
TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Two things I noticed about Texas and a Dallas in particular on moving here. The drivers are proudly awful, and a Texans, for all their pride of state, litter like it's a birthright. The chief identifiable culprits? People in pick-up trucks. White people. What you might call rednecks.

It's one thing to surreptitiously toss something out the window, it's quite another to toss an entire fat bag of fast-food remains, a beer can, or indeed an entire six-pack out the window while stopped at a red light among traffic.

I came to the conclusion that "Don't mess with Texas" meant "Don't mess with my bad ass when I throw shit out the window' or block the fast lane while below the speed limit."

It got better over the years, but damn y'all act like you don't give a rat's ass.

metalpiece
metalpiece

People are paying high electricity charges because the state of Texas added energy delivery charge to the electricity bills and now they want to charge for plastic bags. No wonder people are going ballistic in this country because of the many fees and charges they have to pay. The corporate CEOs are draining the pockets of ordinary people. People are being forced to find low prices everywhere possible. http://ow.ly/uVHBZ

J_A_
J_A_

Target definitely has the best plastic bags. I'll miss them if this ban passes.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

This proposed bag ordinance is not well thought out. It will not acheive a goal of reducing the amount of trash that is in every part of the city.

It is too complex, creates more work for the City staff and retailers, and does not incentivize consumers to stop using the plastic bags.

The reduction in single-use bags is a good goal, and it can be done simply and with much less cost.

First, mandate that all consumers at retail stores be given a credit for bringing in their reusable bag. 15 cents each bag should do the trick.

Second, mandate a deposit of .15 for each single-use bag used by the consumer. that will motivate the consumer to stop using the bags, and motivate people to gather the single-use bags that are loose in all parts of the city and bring them in for the deposit.

Third, extend the deposit to all cans and plastic bottles sold at retail. These are bigger contributors to litter than just about anything, and if there is a .15 payment for each one there wouldn't be many that stay in the gutters of our streets or wind up in the creeks.

Bans rarely work to eliminate the problem.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

They need to ban all bags....I'm sick of seeing this stuff stuck to tree's, and polluting creeks.  Just buy a couple of reusable bags. 

hilllbillle
hilllbillle

watch a dallas garbage truck drive down your street. see trail of bags and trash it leaves in your neighborhood.

hilllbillle
hilllbillle

spring mowing time. just picked up a shitload of all the neighborhoods shredded peices of plastic bags out of my fucking yard. i'd like those dam dirty storeowners to come clean my dam yard.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Leave it to Dallas to take a relatively simple and straightforward idea: Disposable or multi-use shopping bags, and complicate it to a ridiculous end.


If you left things alone, the cost to the City would be the cost of cleanup (although, as Rudd points out, a deposit on bags would incentivize citizens to police up the stray bags).  If you outright ban the single use bags, there will be short period of grousing and complaining, and then the 'new norm' will catch on (just like it did with the switch from paper to plastic).


But no, This is Dallas, the home of Big, Stupid Ideas.  Let's create an ordinance that bans the bags, but leaves an out for retailers who don't feel like switching.  In doing so, we create the need for another layer of City bureaucracy.  Somebody has to register the non-compliant retailers, someone has to ensure that the 'fee' is being collected, and someone has to ensure the city-approved public education programs are being initiated.  After all, the city probably already has a preferred vendor with a program you can buy, they gotta make sure you're buying that program.  Along those lines, I notice the city is clear what vendors must do with their 1/2 of the collected fees/penalties, but was strangely silent about what the city must do with their collected fees.  Yet another untold sum of money to flush down the drain (if you live in the parts of dallas that have a drain to flush money down....)

dc005
dc005

Interesting,  isn't it,  'newspaper bags' are exempt.  I ask for and know about the plastic bags I get at Krogers.  Wonder which Daily Newspaper chunks unwanted paper jammed into an unwanted plastic bag on my front lawn.


Has Daily Newspaper taken an editorial stand on this?  Doubt it would much matter,  as long as they're 'exempt.'

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

This whole thing is racist, which is not surprising considering that it is coming from Dwaine Caraway, one of the biggest racists in Dallas. Look at the purported "why":


 The longer answer is that plastic bags are a significant contributor to litter, they clog streams and get caught on fences and trees, and basically never decompose. 


In other words, it's a litter problem.  North Dallas doesn't have this problem.  Plano doesn't have this problem.  Litter in Dallas is a poor black problem, and Caraway seems to think that black people can't be persuaded to stop littering any way but taking plastic bags away from them like toddlers.  It's soft condescension.


Add in that they are doing this by tacking on a regressive tax that disproportionately hits the poor, especially those on food stamps (who now might have to bring $1-2 for plastic bags in addition to everything else).  Someone buying $15 worth of artisan parmigianno reggiano isn't worried about another $.05 added on.  The mother buying WIC cheese and bargain bin ground beef is going to feel that $1 tax a lot more.

lisareneemerito
lisareneemerito

"Cost of the bags"?  I have 15 to 20 canvas bags and did not pay for one of them.  Retailers, manufacturer's, etc., give them away as a marketing resource.  They are free.  Plastic bags are a waste.  I hope Dallas bans them.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Ok, simple solution time.

Deposit on bags, just like cans, bottles. A nickel would do. Any bags blowing around will quickly snapped up by bums.

That at least would solve the litter problem and provide needed income for some.

It doesn't solve the problems of oil used for production, or the issue of landfills, but one step at a time...

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

More facts to consider:


Plastic bags are the fourth most commonly found piece of ocean litter, according to the Ocean Conservancy, and are eaten by animals such as sea turtles and albatross.

One study found that a canvas tote bag would need to be used 171 times to break even with the carbon impact of one plastic bag.


In the U.S., plastic bags take about 12 million barrels of oil to produce each year.


---Climate Progress

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

@TheRuddSki Don't mess with my fast lane, and go back home Yankees! It's too long Rudd, that's why we went with Don't mess with Texas.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@J.A.

Whole foods has great paper bags. So good, they can be used as luggage in a punch. Preferred by four out of five bums.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@hilllbillle  

The culprits are not the people that pick up the trash, it's the people that can't be bothered to purchase larger trash bags in order to aggregate their trash. They just toss loose trash into the bins and then on pickup day a good percentage of the light, loose trash (plastic bags) gets picked up by the wind on its way to the truck and blown into your lovely crape myrtles.

There was a time when a person actually dumped your garbage cans into the truck and presumably, gave a shit about getting most of it in there - that time is gone. Everything that can be automated is automated and the guy driving your waste truck doesn't see or care if most or even any of your trash makes it into his truck. 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@RTGolden1  The city doesn't get to bleed poor people of regressive taxes in the current state, and they don't get to bleed them on a ban.

glenn.hunter
glenn.hunter

@dc005 Yes, the daily newspaper has taken a stand on a plastic-bag ban, and it's 100 percent for it. Exempting the plastic bags that its papers come wrapped in, of course.

kduble
kduble

@everlastingphelps If it worries the mother too much, she'll bring her bags back. This is precisely what the law is designed to accomplish.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

"litter in Dallas is a poor black problem"

complete bull. there are plastic bags loose in northern Dallas, eastern Dallas, western Dallas and in southern Dallas. There are plastic bags in most creeks in every part of Dallas. There are loose bags at White Rock Lake. It is ridiculous to say that it is only "a poor black problem" or to suggest that there are not any plastic bags littering areas outside of southern Dallas.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@phelps

Fast food comes in paper and styrofoam, and lots of it never leaves the restaurant. There's few plastic bags in food deserts.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@TheRuddSki It wouldn't just be  Bums When I Walk my dog I have one bag for his business and another bag  for aluminum cans .I collect enough so that it is worthwhile . Carrying one more for plastic bags wouldn't be a bother at all.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

I happen to own a Bengal, brought to me by my daughter, with whom it now lives.

Ask any vet, Bengals - depending on the purity - are some of the meanest SOB's around.

I had two big dogs in a Texas when my daughter brought the Bengal. Those dogs became terrified of that cat, who could draw blood whenever the mood struck.

He now lives with my daughter's other two cats, and two dogs. He owns the house.

I had to train him to not attack me for feeding him late, etc. very affectionate, very fast learner, but not always a good breed if you have young kids.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@Myrna.Minkoff-KatzPlastic bags are in the US are now primarily made from a byproduct of natural gas ethane.  The ethane would like be burned off into the air if it was not used for plastic bags. 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  I guess the study assumed that the canvas tote bag was never washed, which would impact the environment with the waste water pollution, the energy costs for the washer and the dryer, the manufacturing load from the detergent, the carbon impact from the truck that has to deliver the detergent, etc.  I'm assuming that if they didn't account for that, they certainly didn't account for the cumulative waste of energy required to carry the extra weight around in our cars, especially if that bag is left in the car all the time (which is likely.)


But then, that's what it means to be an "environmentalist" -- bad at math.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

The US burns through almost 7 billion barrels of oil a year. 12 million barrels for plastic bags is slightly more than one day's oil use, not a huge consideration.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TheCreibleHulk

I blame Tony Soprano.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  No, "food desert" is a misleading, Orwelian term.  There's plenty of food in food deserts -- it's just all convenience food, not raw fruits and vegetables.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@oakcliff

Now if we can just get someone to pay for dogshit, you could retire.

kduble
kduble

@TheRuddSki At $100 a barrell, that's $1.2 billion, half of which leaves the U.S. economy to go to other countries, some of which hate us. Money to Putin? I say no.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@paul

What do you have against gila monsters?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

In my travels, I've found that the poor areas of cities and towns actually do have more of a litter problem than the higher-economic demographic areas. I think that maybe, if you have concerns like feeding yourself and family, or keeping your financial head above water, issues like litter are low-priority.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @P1GunterAt the corner of Rosemeade and Midway is a 7-11.  Behind that 7-11 is a creek.  A creek that someone went to a lot of effort at some point to make walkable and inviting.  Walk it now.  It is full of trash, or it was when I lived up there.  We fished in it, even caught fish, but we never kept a one.  Not on your life.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@P1Gunter  I took a particular interest in litter on my way to work today, and didn't see a single piece.  Far North Dallas doesn't have this problem.  All of the problems you are talking about are specifically White Rock area.  I'm sure not seeing them on Rosemeade like RT is talking about.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I may disagree with Phelps from time to time, but he is way off base here. I live near White Rock in possibly the whitest damn neighborhood in the city. There are fucking plastic bags everywhere. Dwayne Caraway is wrong on most everything, but he's not far off here.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @mavdogstroll around on Rosemeade (still in Dallas), up around the skillman/audelia/635 area, White Rock lake and the neighborhoods all the way around it (not right on the lakeshore, but a few blocks off).  The bags and trash are everywhere.

I can usually find a way to see your point, Phelps, but this time, you're simply full of shit.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

"mavdog doesn't see what he doesn't want to see"

this from a person who says he sees "litter on the streets south of 30, and not north"?

that is really, really funny. thanks for the laugh!

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@mavdog @everlastingphelps  I have eyes, just like everyone else reading here.  There are two possibilities:


1) I see litter on the streets south of 30, and not north.


2) There is a litter problem all over Dallas.


I sure as hell know what I've seen.  If everyone else in Dallas is seeing something else, then they'll know I'm wrong.


Instead, what they will see is that mavdog doesn't see what he doesn't want to see.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

claiming there are no plastic bags hanging on bushes, trees and fences in areas outside of "poor black" southern Dallas, or that "litter...is a black problem" as apparently your opinion is only blacks litter, pretty much destroys your credibility.....

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

That's it, a lack of healthy food constitutes a food desert. But as I've posted before, when someone remedies the situation by providing what I guess would be called an oasis, nothing really changes (this is from NPR report). Seems ingrained behavior is to blame - peeling and slicing and cooking is apparently a lost art in some communities.

I seem to recall NYC banning new fast food permits in certain areas, but let's face it, now that folks demanded government effectively "keep it's hands on my body", there will have to be tight restrictions on individuals to combat the costly obesity epidemic.

Some folks will need government permits for a Big Mac, etc.

BMI will be the new DWI.

paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

@TheRuddSki consultants have been getting companies and alot of folks to pay for dogshit for years.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

Note I said disposable plastic liners to replace disposable plastic bags. Just change them every time you shop.

Am I genius or WHAT?!

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  Nope, that's even worse.  Then you have a cross-contamination nightmare, because plastic is an even better medium for food-borne illness than canvas.  


You've got raw meat juices, raw produce, and packaging that has been handled by God-knows-Who before it gets to the store shelf, and then Oh-My-God-What-Was-That after it is on the store shelves, and they are all mucking around in the same bags week after week?  


Might as well call that plan Welcome Back Cholera.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@phelps

Solution is to line the canvas or hemp bags with disposable plastic inner liners, no washing required.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@kdubleSorry plastic bags in the US are not made from oil anymore.  The are made from a natural gas byproduct ethane that would otherwise be burned off into the air.

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