Environment
12:22 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

San Antonio City Leaders To Hear Recommendation On Plastic Bag Ban

Just over a year ago, city leaders in Austin instituted a city-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. As San Antonio leaders decide on the consequences of a similar ban, shoppers in Austin say it's only a matter of getting used to.

They carry on as if nothing ever changed. "It just took a little time to get used to it, but it's definitely worth it," said Bethany Martin as she carried her groceries out of an Austin-area Whole Foods on Monday.

Now, Martin constantly carries her reusable bags in her car. If she forgets to take them in the store, she takes the groceries in the basket out to the car where she'll load them up.

Matt McClure thinks similarly.

As he shopped Monday, he said the city-wide ordinance is good because it forces people to adapt to a new way of life.

"Clearly it's a law now, so that makes a difference when you have to do something," he said.

"But I think, until [bag bans] happen, that's probably not going to be the case. We're creatures of habit. If you have the habit [of keeping reusable bags] in the back of your car, it's pretty easy."

Under Austin's ban, businesses can offer several different types of bags, including cloth, fabric, or paper made with at least 80 percent recycled content. Exemptions include plastics for produce or the newspaper.

Lauren Hammond, with Austin's Resource Recovery department, said the ban has been very successful and that it is doable.

"We've heard from the community that there's a lot less plastic bag litter in creeks and in parking lots," she said, which was why city leaders initially began exploring a ban. "I believe I've heard that more shoppers are remembering to bring their bags when they go shopping so we really feel like this ordinance is a success in Austin."

Initially, the Texas Retailers Association sued Austin but later dropped the case when Austin city leaders started probing for proprietary information stores didn't want to disclose.

Next week, the San Antonio City Council's Governance Committee will meet where city staffers will propose a recommendation on how to move forward.

The issue has been led by District 7 City Councilman Cris Medina, who in February convened a separate committee, apart from the city council, that included retailers, businesses, and community members to talk about how a ban would be implemented in San Antonio.

The results of that meeting concluded with an overall consensus that the city should educate residents thoroughly before any ban would be approved.

"Overwhelmingly, the group feels a ban is too soon, but I think that the meeting was definitely a great start and a very short amount of time allotted to an issue that deserves more time," said H-E-B spokesperson Dya Campos following the meeting.

But, those in Austin who are living with a bag ban tend to agree that the move to banning single-use plastic bags really isn't that big of a deal.

Bethany Martin says it works in Austin, and it should in San Antonio, too.

"Save the planet, prevent all the plastics in the landfills, and pay it forward, right?" she said.

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