Austin City Limits Bag Ban Consideration is Music to the Ears of T.C.E.

Paper or plastic is a question that may not be asked again soon in Austin, Texas. The Texas Campaign for the Environment is applauding the consideration as both a common sense forward thinking solution for the environment and sound fiscal policy. The recent consideration of plastic bag bans in Austin is a trend continuing in Texas with Brownsville being the latest example earlier this year. TEC along with other environmental activist groups and government are finding common ground with the taxpayer savings in clean-up efforts and city image.

The City of Austin has scheduled a Town Hall forum on October 24th, 2011, at 6 PM at Austin Energy located at 721 Barton Springs Rd. One of the major topics to be covered is the banning of single use bags. Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, will be in attendance with members of the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) and members from Austin’s Resource Recovery Department (ARRD). The public is encouraged to attend to show support of the single use plastic and paper bag ban. The next City Council meeting, which the public is also encouraged to attend, will be held the second Wednesday of November, with a vote for the ordinance to be held in December.

We spoke to Robin Schneider, Executive Director at The Texas Campaign for the Environment, a non-profit organization, to discuss what their major goals of the October 24th Town Hall forum will be. Robin stated that “We would like to see the ban of single-use bags, plastic and paper, to move forward in Austin to save the taxpayers the expense of bag pollution cleanup. Taxing citizens for plastic bag clean up does not ultimately solve the issue of the environmental impacts of plastic bags in our water ways and overflowing landfills. We would like the inclusion of paper bags in the ban as paper bag processing uses far more energy and produces much more in emissions. Paper bags also cost more than plastic bags. The best solution is for consumers to use reusable shopping bags.”

Austin’s Resource Recovery Department has released a report showing that, “The impact of plastic bags on residents’ costs tax payers $850,000.00 in plastic bag clean up from waterways, waste water systems and sewage systems each year. Further, machinery systems at recycling facilities become clogged and operations halt when plastic bags become entangled, costing time and money. There are also costs to land fill operators who have problems controlling airborne plastic bags.”

According to a report released by The Texas Campaign for the Environment, retailers purchased 3,454,522 pounds of plastic bags from January 2008 through June 2009 but only recycled 915,882 pounds of plastic during the same time frame. Less than 27% of the plastic bags from the participating retailers were recycled by the retailers. The overall use of recycled shopping bags and “multi-use” organic bags continues to increase nationwide as more and more cities recognize more than just the eco-friendly benefits.

In early 2011, Brownsville, Texas was the first city in Texas to pass a plastic and paper bag ban. Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell is looking at Brownsville’s model as an example. Brownsville’s ordinance includes paper bags in its ban and is saving an estimated 375,000 bags a day. According to Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, “The ordinance was a good thing to implement. There would be people that think it is inconvenient, but people adapt in one way or another”, he said.

The Austin City Council has scheduled a Town Hall forum on October 24th, 2011, at 6 PM at Austin Energy located at 721 Barton Springs Road in Austin, Texas. TCE and ARRD welcome and encourage your support and attendance. If you cannot attend the meeting on October, 24th, you can also send an email to Mayor Lee Leffingwell asking for the inclusion of paper bags to be in the single use bag ban at the Austin Texas Government site . Voice your desire to move towards the use of eco friendly reusable shopping bags and help Austin city limits go green.

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