It seems like every day, more and more cities are banning single-use plastic bags, and the latest town to jump on the no-waste train is Austin Texas!
What makes the ban in Austin stand out is that on top of banning single-use plastic, the law also covers some types of disposable paper bags. The law, which took effect on March 1, 2013 does have a few exemptions:
- Thick plastic bags are still allowed, because they are considered to be reusable.
- Paper bags with handles that are 40% recycled are still OK.
- There are some food uses where plastic is still permitted, basically if the purpose of the single-use plastic bag is to avoid leaking or spilling.
You can check out the full list of exemptions on the Austin Bag Ban page.
Related Reading: 16 Ways to Reuse Plastic Bags
Before instituting a full on bag ban, the City of Austin tried a curbside recycling program for plastic bags, which didn’t perform very well at all. The program ran from May to August of 2008, with 5000 participating households. Unfortunately, folks just weren’t recycling enough bags to justify the increased costs for collection, so the city decided that they needed to take more drastic measures to curb plastic pollution.
Of course, Austin isn’t the only city to ban the bag. San Francisco banned plastic bags years ago, and Seattle instituted a plastic bag ban last summer. In Hawaii, residents got plastic bans passed county by county, until the entire state effectively had a ban on plastic bags.
Opponents to plastic bag bans say that reusable grocery bags actually pose a public health problem, but this seems a little bit farfetched. The argument is that the bags hold food, and over time that food can rot, making the bags unsanitary. Does that also mean that we should be using only disposable dishes and cutting boards, too? Or does it mean that – like any other surface that comes into contact with food – you ought to wash your reusable grocery bags between uses?
Does your city ban plastic bags? If so, that probably means you need to shore up your stash of reusable bags! Check out some super fun tutorials for making your own reusable shopping bags from reclaimed materials on the next page!