Dispatch From City Hall

Dallas may become next Texas city to ban single-use plastic bags

Dallas may become next Texas city to ban single-use plastic bags

The single-use bag debate has been raging in Dallas since 2008, but it just got a small boost from the city's Quality of Life committee. At a June 10 meeting, the committee unanimously voted to brief the entire Dallas City Council on a proposed ordinance that would ban single-use paper and plastic grocery bags.

Council member and committee chair Angela Hunt was quick to clarify that the approval for briefing was not an official endorsement.

Dwaine Caraway brought the issue before the city and is a passionate proponent of the ban. However, his enthusiasm is tempered by a belief that the Dallas consumer should not foot the bill. In the seven Texas cities with a bag ban ordinance, customers are responsible for purchasing reusable bags or paying to use plastic ones.

 "I'm not looking for a money-generator," Dwaine Caraway said. "I don't think the consumer should pay one dime for these bags."

Brownsville's 2011 ordinance has brought in $1.4 million in revenue through a $1 flat fee for plastic bags.

"I'm not looking for a money-generator," Caraway said. "I don't think the consumer should pay one dime for these bags." 

In a presentation to the committee, officials said the issue is an environmental problem, and voluntary programs to reduce plastic bag use have not been successful. In an informal survey of 19 local grocers, only four offered rebates for reusable bags and only six had signs encouraging their use. On the positive side, 15 of the stores surveyed sold reusable bags. 

The city is considering a handful of options to address the problem on plastic bag littering, including banning all single-use bags, requiring signage for and availability of reusable bags, and working with the Texas Legislature to make it legal to impose a fee for providing single-use bags.

Although seven 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. 

Gary Huddleston, director of consumer affairs for Kroger, attended the hearing. He said that plastic bags are necessary from a sanitary standpoint to transport meat. 

"We believe that the customer deserves a choice between plastic, paper and reusable bags," Huddleston said. "A bag ban would save us money, but we don't think it's good for the customer." 

Huddleston said that Kroger has recycled more than 2 million pounds of plastic in the past year through collection bins at stores. 

Holding up a copy of the June 10 issue of the Dallas Morning News, which features a photo of a plastic bag littering a fence, Caraway cut through five years of debate. 

"Who's going to go get this bag out of this barb wire?" Caraway asked. "Who's going to clean up the city? We can pay today or we can pay tomorrow." 

Plastic bags in a pile
Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.  Greencotton