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Austin Bans Single-Use Bags

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Austin Bans Single-Use Bags

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!

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


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1:56AM PDT on May 10, 2013


5:04AM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

Good for them! It's a step in the right direction.

11:05AM PDT on Mar 26, 2013

in UK they still sell plastic bags...but to be honest i cant understand why people dont recycle them or just revert back to cloth bags....cloth bags dont take up much room and they certainly hold a lot more than one use plastic bags....looks like the only way people will start 2 think twice when it comes to bags is if stores start charging them for em....roll on the day that happens ...thanks for sharing

1:24PM PDT on Mar 21, 2013

Recycle most everything I can, so have very small amount of weekly trash that easily fits in grocery-sized bag - not buying trash bags is recycling, too. When I have enough plastic grocery bags for several weeks trash, I use cloth bags for shopping. There are many non-food ways to reuse plastic bags before taking them to recycle bins.

8:31AM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

i pick up a lot of trash outdoors and it's amazing the sheer quantity of plastic bags i find. unfortunately, although i support a ban on these bags i no longer use reusable bags because i need these bags for all the trash i find. i even have other people saving their bags for me as i fill hundreds of these bags every year with trash i find outside where it's not supposed to be.

5:58AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013


1:55PM PDT on Mar 10, 2013

Wish this would happen in Ohio, but if never will.Too conservative state with conservative right -wing governor.

12:36PM PDT on Mar 10, 2013

we've not had plastic bags in shops for almost 2 years here in wales. if you want a bag, you have to pay for it. a lot of people use reusable bags, such as the thicker plastic ones that once they get manky or ripped, you take them back to the shop you got them from [if they have that policy] and they give you a replacement. or there are the thin almost waterproof material ones, or like a hessian type one. most people don't mind; and if you forget to take a bag, that's your problem! there are a few rules where that doesn't apply, when it comes to loose food, but they're a bit sketchy, but i think on the same lines as those set out already in the article

12:00PM PST on Mar 9, 2013

People here (in Austin) are going to need a little time to get used to it. It's funny, but no one is complaining about it, it was just a matter of time, and about time. And when you forget your bags, just keep them in the grocery cart and dump them in your car. Some stores, on March 1st, gave reusable bags away with your purchase, and they do have them for sell for less than a dollar at many places. Ikea has been selling their large blue bags for .49 cents, Target gave away their big red bag with the dog (with the red bullseye), some other stores are doing the thick paper bags with the handles. But the best thing to doing and many are doing it, is just putting their bags in their cars so they'll remember. It's a great idea and about time.

10:55PM PST on Mar 8, 2013

People just need to use a little common sense and hygiene. The shopping carts are likely dirty when babies and kids sit in the carts! So your re-useable shopping bag may pick up germs- just wash the bags occasionally! Wash your hands before preparing food, don't let raw meat and raw veggies hang out on the same cutting board...The bacteria can't jump off the shopping bag and onto your meal- it is your unwashed hands that are transferring germs all over the place!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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