Texas Supreme Court Case Could End Plastic Bag Bans

Jan 11, 2018

Texas’ highest court finished hearing oral arguments on Thursday for a lawsuit brought against Laredo for its implementation of a citywide ban on plastic shopping bags.

In 2016, the state’s 4th Court of Appeals overturned a district court ruling, siding with the Laredo Merchants Association’s claim that these bag bans violate a state rule that says local governments may not “prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of these plastic shopping bags.”

City leaders then appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court.

Dale Wainwright, attorney for Laredo, said Laredo businesses distribute more than 120 million plastic bags every year. He said plastic bags backup drainage systems, ultimately resulting in flooding and litter.

Wainwright argued that these plastic bags aren’t considered garbage or trash at the point of sale and therefore banning them isn’t a violation of state law.

“Just like a purse at Neiman Marcus on the shelf or a kid's backpack on the shelf at Target; those are not solid waste until they are abandoned,” Wainwright said.

Justice Jeff Boyd questioned whether a city could address a solid waste problem by banning plastic shopping bags not yet considered trash under the city’s definition.

If the state Supreme Court rules against the ban, it could have statewide implications for cities like Austin and Port Aransas, which already have plastic bag ban in place, as well as any other Texas cities considering a similar ordinance.

Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe