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Austin Set to Eliminate Disposable Bags

published on June 27, 2012

Austin grocery bagsIn March the Austin City Council approved a Single-Use Bag Ordinance as part of a Zero Waste Initiative for the City, which also includes the City’s new composting program, and will take effect in March 2013. The ordinance regulates the types of bags that can be distributed by business establishments in Austin and encourages a shift to reusable bags to eliminate trash and litter both in landfills and along roadways. This could mean seeing only grass along sidewalks in neighborhoods that see through-traffic, like Milwood and West Lake, rather than plastic sacks and litter. The ordinance does not eliminate retail check-out bags, like plastic grocery sacks; rather, the ordinance regulates the types of bags permissible for retail check-out, meaning that bags used at checkout must be recyclable, and patrons will be charged a fee set by the retailer to use one. 

Consumers will be able to choose the type of bag they would like to use at retail counters in Austin, including reusable bags that you bring from home at no cost like an Envirosax bag that can be rolled up and tucked in a purse when not in use; a plastic bag sold by the retailer; a paper bag made of recycled content sold by the retailer; and any type of cloth or reusable bag sold by the retailer. Local food pantries like Capital Area Food Bank will receive an exemption from needing to charge for bags used by patrons. Bags that will still be ok to use for free include laundry dry cleaning bags, newspaper rain guard bags, prescription drug bags that are recyclable, take-out bags from restaurants that are recyclable, and bags for bulk items or produce. 

Austin plastic bagsThe City is currently implementing a sweeping education and media program to ensure all Austinites are educated and informed about the change and the motives behind it. The move should also do wonders to eliminate litter along Austin waterfronts like Lake Austin and Lake Travis. “It’s great to see the City undertaking such a large beautification and ecological initiative,” said Austin Realtor Brian Talley. “Plastic grocery sacks can fill up landfills, line the sidewalk, or if you mean to recycle them but forget to, like I sometimes do, fill up a corner of your pantry. I’m happy to see them phased out in favor of reusable bags.”

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