Blogs » Man Bites Dog » Paper or plastic: Austin passes bag ban


BYOB is about to take on a whole new meaning in the state's capitol.

Last summer, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell proposed a ban on plastic bags at checkout counters. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the ban passed at 2 a.m. today.

While more than two dozen U.S. cities have bag laws, most of them prohibiting plastic bags and imposing a fee on paper, Austin is the first large Texas city to pass an all-out bag ban.

The ban seems to come from a good heart. Plastic bags aren't biodegradable, they're known to pollute waterways, harm wildlife, clog drainage systems and take up landfill space. A report published last January in the Statesman estimated that Austin consumes more than 260 million plastic bags a year, and those bags cost the city $850,000 a year to store in landfills and to clean up as litter.

On the other hand, the ban comes with a $2 million education campaign intended to make shoppers aware they need to BYOB. How hard (or expensive) can that really be? Then there are the three R's: reduce, reuse, recycle. I follow after my Depression-era grandmother who hoards paper and plastic bags because "you never know when one might come in handy." Think trash can liners, animal waste, lunch bags, heck, even for garage sale treasures.

While Austin retailers will be able to offer only reusable bags -- made of cloth, durable materials or thicker paper and plastic bags with handles -- there's a list of exemptions. Single-use bags used for bulk foods, meat, fish and produce, newspaper delivery, dry cleaning and restaurant carry-out foods, as well as bags that charities and nonprofits use to distribute food and other items are exempt, according to the Statesman.

It's great to see a Texas city taking such an environmentally-conscious stand against pollution, but you'd think they'd address the traffic pollution first. What do you think would happen in the Crossroads if Victoria's city council jumped on board banning bags?