Ready or not, it’s here. Friday marks day one of the city of Austin’s bag ban. The capital city joins several other Texas cities, including Brownsville, South Padre Island, and Fort Stockton, that have put limits or fees on plastic bags, though in Austin, the restrictions go beyond just plastic.
“For what I have now, it would probably take two bags normally, and this only takes one,” said Dayly Dickenson, of Austin, early Friday morning, describing her groceries inside a reusable bag given out by one Austin grocery store. A new bag and a new routine for Dickenson, her early morning grocery run one of the first since Austin’s new bag ban went into effect. “I’ll have to buy extra trash bags,” said Dickenson, remarking on the loss of the thin plastic bags. “But a lot of them go to waste, go in the trash.” Dickenson said she generally thinks the changes are a good idea, as does shopper Carlo Cruz. “I think it’s a really good idea because it helps for recycling things, the environment,” said Cruz, who was shopping at the store early Friday morning with his wife. Cruz says they started stocking up on free reusable bags given out by one store earlier in the week. “It seems like you can hold better,” said Cruz, of the reusable bags. “The other ones sometimes tear up, make a mess.” But even fans of the ban admit it has its drawbacks. “Having enough bags for some people might be a challenge,” said Dickenson. “I definitely think it’ll take more time just because you have to be more efficient about packing the bags and how you pack them.”
Then there’s remembering to bring them. Most of the people we saw both inside and outside of the grocery store early Friday morning were walking out with reusable bags the store was giving away for free. “I think it’s a good cause, I just always forget,” said Dickenson. “I really don’t think it’ll be that much a hassle once people get in the habit of putting it in their car.” Cruz admits he may have an easier time than others. “Because I’m married, it’s totally different,” said Cruz. “My wife can go out with me, say ‘Hey, don’t forgot the bag,’ but a single person probably they will!” Austin’s ban and similar bans are not without their share of controversy. The Texas Retailers Association has filed a lawsuit against the city.
It argues Austin does not have the authority to enact the ordinance and that it violates state law. And in Seattle, which has a similar ban, some grocers worry it could encourage shoplifting because they say it’s harder to spot thieves sneaking away items in their own bags. So if you’re going grocery shopping, don’t forget to bring your own bags. Starting this morning, free disposable plastic and paper bags are no more. Exceptions include thicker plastic bags with handles and recycled paper bags with handles. Laundry, newspaper, dry cleaning, and waste bags are also exempt, along with bags for produce. Restaurant bags must be made of paper. City Council passed the ordinance creating the bag ban in March 2012.
By Adam Bennett