Retailers Turn to Greg Abbott in Fight Against Plastic Bag Bans

Categories: The Environment

Thumbnail image for PlasticBagLadiesFlickrBernardBurns.jpg
Bernard Burns
If plastic bags are banned, how will people make such fashionable dresses?
The best argument against plastic bag bans like the one Dallas is set to consider very soon is that they're not really worth the energy. Plastic sacks make up a relatively small fraction of the waste stream, hardly enough to justify inconveniencing shoppers or retailers.

It's not a particularly good argument, and it's failed to keep nine (and counting) Texas cities from adopting bag bans. Which is why libertarian skeptics, plastic bag manufacturers and grocery stores have been seeking alternative means of saving the plastic bags, like pointing to an obscure provision in state law that bars cities from regulating certain types of solid waste.

That was the argument put forth by Texas Retailers Association in its lawsuit against the city of Austin last year. And it's the argument being made by Republican state Representative Dan Flynn of Canton -- with the backing of the Texas Retailers Association -- in a letter asking Attorney General Greg Abbott to weigh in on the issue.

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

"At least nine cities in Texas have enacted bans on plastic bags and adopted fees on replacement bags in recent years," Flynn writes in the letter, which was first reported by the Texas Tribune. "This appears to be in contravention of state law."

The state law he's referencing is buried deep within the Texas Health and Safety Code and says that "a local government or other political subdivision may not adopt an ordinance, rule, or regulation to: (1) 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 ... or (3) assess a fee or deposit on the sale or use of a container or package"

It's hard to overstate how lame this is. Instead of pushing for a legal victory that could have effectively banned plastic-bag bans in Texas, the TRA drops its lawsuit (it cited a reluctance to give up information on bag sales, which it described as "proprietary") and turns to Abbott for an opinion, which carries all the legal weight of the piece of paper it's printed on.

See also: Maybe Dallas Won't Face a Lawsuit if It Passes Its Plastic Bag Ban After All

Sure, it might cause cities to reconsider proposed or already implemented plastic bag bans, as the Tribune suggests, and it might embolden the TRA to pursue a future lawsuit, but cities and towns are free to ignore it as they wish.

Then again, they probably do have a better shot of getting a favorable outcome from the Republican gubernatorial nominee than an actual judge.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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41 comments
everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Plastic bag bans are racist.  Preston Hollow doesn't have a plastic bag litter problem, Oak Cliff does.  Bag bans are just a nice way for politicians to accuse black people of being filthy and lazy.

Robert541
Robert541

Whats wrong with a cloth bag?

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Seems a pointless discussion when you carry home those plastic bottles of designer water in your canvas tote.

ruddski
ruddski

Why stop at plastic bags. This is a list of things Texas needs to ban. I've noticed some of these in my recent road trip.

1. Bottled water. Re-useable bottles only

2. Fast-food packaging

3. Fast-food drive-throughs (idling pollution)

4. Billboards

5. Signage over a size TBD

6. Excess light pollution TBD

7. Bums

8. Liquor, beer, soda - anything drinkable must be purchased in bulk, or distributed into customer-supplied containers

9. Dogs, or anything that shits or pees in common areas ( see #7), unless fitted with diapers.

10. People over a certain BMI or gross weight TBD (exemptions allowed for those already exempted from immigration requirements, and Walmart customers)

11. Shit that annoys Ruddski.

12. Chewing gum

13. Wild, untrained children (see exemptions in #10)

14. Children below the age of 19 at Chinese Buffets

15. Car horns

16. Newspapers, magazines, or any printed material that can be published on the internet.

17. Public cell-phone use at a decimal level TBD

This is just a partial list of things that plague modern society. There's more, but acceptable incrementalism is probably the best route.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Myrna just returned from the food market with canvas totes full of groceries.  It is so gorgeous out today and Myrna felt very continental, very Italian.  People often mistake me for Sophia Loren, you know.  My neighbors are coming over for Italian night, recipes from my Italian Jewish mother-in-law from South Philly.. oy, that was the best thing that ever came out of that god-awful marriage. 

jesdynf
jesdynf

When I call Republicans unprincipled, it's because they're very bad at implementing the principles they claim to have. Where's the deep and abiding respect for local control and small government I hear so much jawing about? There's no level of government closer to the citizens and /it has spoken/. Why exactly does it to be overruled at a higher, more remote level by some bureaucrats most of those citizens have never even met?

But I am flexible. Now that we've established that this is apparently a thing Republicans like, can we revisit the role of the EPA in making Texans act like Americans?

ruddski
ruddski

What happens if a shopper brings his own plastic bags?

kduble
kduble

@AdamsonScott That's what smokers said about the restaurant ban. The trend is not your friend.

ruddski
ruddski

Forgot one

18. People who refer to themselves in the third person.

ruddski
ruddski

@Myrna

Sophia isn't the most exquisitely beautiful and sexy woman who ever lived.

Biglar
Biglar

@jesdynf  Actually, there is a level closer than local government, and it is the individuals themselves.  Let us decide whether we want a plastic bag, and let the businesses decide whether they want to provide it.  We don't need anyone to tell us whether or not we should have a plastic bag.   We don't need the government at any level to tell us what to do.  A tyranny of the local government is still a tyranny.

TexMarine
TexMarine

@ruddski  which is why I've been hoarding plastic bags for years...well that and the 200 lbs of dogs we have. once the ban is in effect, I'll be the plastic bag kingpin of east dallas.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ruddski

the ordinance typically is a prohibition on the retailer providing the single use bag. it does not mandate what an individual uses themselves.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ruddski

like # 11?

consider yourself banned.....

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@PlanoDave  Uh, no, she's very much alive, and still gorgeous at the age of 79.



mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@Biglar

not too hard to wash the reusable bags and get rid of that pesky bacteria ya know....

kduble
kduble

@Biglar You may decide whether you want one or not, but the moment it gets lose from your hand and caught in the wind, it becomes a financial burden to the public. Hence, the demand to either restrict their distribution, or else, charge a fee commensurate with the cost of removing them from the public domain.

ruddski
ruddski

@Biglar

All plastic packaging will be implanted with RFI, and registered. If one of your bags is found stuck on a fence in W. Texas, big fine.

ruddski
ruddski

@TexMarine

So can we assume you'll be lobbying down at city hall?

ruddski
ruddski

@mavdog

Ruddski is exempt from all these rules, read the fine print.

ruddski
ruddski

I don't get it, should I?

ruddski
ruddski

@sharin_ass

Ruddski is flat-chested, is a spitting image of Sam Elliot, except with a larger probiscus, which Asians love.

Plus, I got a dick. Did I mention the big nose?

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Butt lips and grandma hair.  Pass.  Betty White looks better.


(no disrespect intended to you, we have not met so I have no idea what you look like)

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@mavdog @Biglar  People who don't throw plastic bags in the trash rather than the ground sure as hell aren't going to wash cloth bags.

kduble
kduble

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @Biglar Bogus. When was the last time you bought meat that wasn't shrink-wrapped. You're exposed to far more harmful bacteria tying your shoe laces.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

@Biglar @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  Let's see. I wonder if there might be an inexpensive and simple way to prevent such contamination. Hmmm, soap and water, meet bag.

Biglar
Biglar

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @Biglar  Just looking out for you.  Reusable bags are a known health hazard.  Which is another reason why plastic bag bans are stupid.

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