Austin, Texas, is just one of the places where single-use plastic bags are banned. The movement all started in 2007 when the Austin City Council decided to evaluate and recommend strategies to minimize the usage of single-use non-compostable plastic bags. The city council raised awareness about the environmental effect in using this kind of plastic bag and introduced the use of reusable and recyclable paper bags as well as compostable plastic bags.
One year later, in 2008, the city council introduced the resolution encouraging people to voluntary avoid using single-use plastic bags. The council also set a goal to reduce the plastic bags entering their waste stream by fifty percent in 18 months. This plan failed, with the reduction only amounts to 20%. However, the important part is that there was still a reduction in plastic usage and that there are more people who are interested in the project. In 2010, an additional step was done by the Austin City Council, which is to research how the processing of plastic bags in the waste stream affects the cost to taxpayers, reports lookthinkmake.com
The Austin City Council made a surprising discovery in 2011 after its research a year earlier. The council found out that approximately $850,000 was being used per year to process plastic bags. This cost did not even include the cleaning of plastic nor its environmental and wildlife impacts. Finally, in 2011, the Austin City Council decided to make the resolution for the city ordinance to phase out single-use non-compostable plastic bags in retail establishments and was replaced with washable cloth bags. The ban was officially declared in 2012 with the ordinance number 20120301-078. This effort was made possible thanks to people like Rick Cofer, a criminal defense lawyer in Austin, and his colleagues who spearheaded the project.
However, there were movements to bag the plastic bag ban starting in 2014, which is spearheaded by Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott claims that plastic bag bans are legal IF they do not aim for solid was management. This argument was used during the bagging of a plastic bag ban in Laredo, Texas in 2015. They argued that plastic bags are not “garbage” and therefore is not covered by the solid waste management law. In 2016, the Laredo bag ban was lifted. Legal professionals like Rick Cofer disagreed to this change ban lift.
Unfortunately, the bag ban in Austin was also lifted in Austin as the Texas Supreme Court ruled out that city ordinances cannot contradict the state law. The ban lift happened last year in Austin, with the anti-bag ban movement spearheaded by Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton also said that these bag bans across Texas are illegal.
Rick Cofer believes that big retailers will continue offering washable bags because it would also bring a substantial amount of income. Cofer believes that in Austin, where people shop their environmental values, the large retailers will continue to not give single-use plastic bags for free.