Go Plastic Go

No more 5-cent fee: City of Dallas repeals current plastic bag law

No more 5-cent fee: City of Dallas repeals current plastic bag law

Plastic bags are now back on the table as the Dallas City Council voted to repeal the 5-cent fee on disposable shopping bags, as well as a vote against banning plastic bags entirely.

The council voted on the two motions following a tour de force presentation by council member Dwaine Caraway, one that included props, impassioned speeches and public comments from grade school students who pleaded with the council to ban bags.

The current plastic bag law, which took effect on January 1, was under review because the city got hit with a lawsuit from plastic bag manufacturers.

"This is wrong," Caraway said. "This is about money. This is about big business. This is about north against south. Look at the community you're smothering. You're talking about growing south. You can't grow south, not with trash."

To bolster his argument, he set up a demonstration in council chambers. On a blanket of Astroturf, he installed a tree and two fences — one chain link, one barbed-wire — both strewn with plastic bags. He added more plastic bags with a reminder that the city has no budget to clean it up.

"To the manufacturers, we're saying, 'Contribute to a better and stronger material that we can deal with. Strengthen the material so it won't fly everywhere,'" he said.

"I'm not talking about banning all plastic. We're simply saying this is unacceptable. This flies everywhere. What we are saying to the manufacturers is to get a better quality of plastic. Make a contribution to the environment. Don't just think you can come make money off us."

Other municipalities that have banned plastic bags include Australia, China, Japan, Italy and the state of California, as well as cities such as Austin, Brownsville and New York.

"Are we going to bend to the pressure today just for some folks that are calling us because they make money on it?" Caraway said.

All public comments supported a plastic bag ban, including representatives from the Texas Campaign on the Environment, the Dallas Sierra Club and the "Plastic Bag Monster," who was wrapped in plastic bags.

"I urge you to allow me to run rampant in the city, and if not I can sue you anyway," the Plastic Bag Monster said jokingly.

City council member Philip Kingston drew some chuckles when he ceded his time on the topic to Caraway. "Mr. Mayor, do you mind if Mr. Caraway uses my time?" he asked.

"I’m sure he will use it whether I mind it or not," Rawlings said.

The motion to ban plastic bags was voted down first, followed by a repeal of the current bag law. To justify his vote against a ban, Rick Callahan summoned the odious "nanny state" phrase, before pointing out that a number of other items cause trash such as bottles and tires, and stating that he would rather ban Styrofoam.

Scott Griggs said that no one ordinance would resolve everything but that the city needed to take a step in tackling the problem. Kingston pointed out that a new city council would very likely pass a bag ban.

Caraway closed with a scorching speech to the council members who voted against a plastic bag ban, including Rawlings and outspoken opponents Jerry Allen and Rick Callahan.

"You know this is wrong in your heart," he said. "You all know deep down in your hearts the bags are an issue, but are too weak to stand up and do something about it because the manufacturers and the retailers are in your ear."

Plastic bag man
"Plastic bag man" spoke to the Dallas City Council about the plastic bag ban. Photo by Donovan Westover