Environmental News

Dallas plastic bag ban gets approved — barely

Dallas plastic bag ban gets approved — barely

Sometimes, the slimmest victories are the sweetest. After much heated debate, the Dallas City Council narrowly passed a motion to regulate single-use bags.

Just moments before the victorious vote was read aloud, council member (and motion sponsor) Dwaine Caraway blurted out, "We failed." No one was more surprised than Caraway when the vote was revealed as 8 to 6, in favor of the motion.

"Change is extremely hard. I understand that. But at some point we have to put our foot down," Caraway said.

Caraway's original amendment called for bag fees ranging from 10 cents per bag to $1 per transaction, with business allowed to pocket up to 50 percent of the proceeds. Caraway revised his final motion to bring down the fee to 5 cents, with no possibility of a flat per-transaction fee. He also changed the amount of proceeds businesses will be allowed to pocket to 10 percent.

Before the vote, dissenting council members worried about infringing on business owners' rights and possible legal ramifications of the city mandating a bag fee. Although seven Texas cities have already passed such ordinances, it is technically against state law to do so.

The Texas Retailers Association has filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin as a result of its March ordinance. City attorney Warren Ernst used careful lawyer language to address the issue, saying only that Dallas was prepared to defend its right to impose a fee.

Two separate motions — one to bring the issue back to committee and one to ban all single-use bags outright — overwhelmingly failed. The fee-based partial bag ban will take effect in 2015.

Plastic bags in a pile
Free plastic bags are banned in Dallas, as of January 1, 2015. Greencotton
Councilmember Dwaine Caraway
Dwaine Caraway, displaying reusable canvas bags, was the driver behind the new law. Photo by Claire St. Amant