AUSTIN, Texas — The phrase "paper or plastic" is slowly disappearing from the lexicon of shoppers in Austin, Texas. A new ordinance that bans single use bags in favor of reusable takes effect Friday.
"The single use bags wreak a lot of havoc for such a small part of the waste stream," says Andrew Dobbs, program director with the Texas Campaign for the Environment. "They end up creating problems with our recycling facilities, with our storm drains, with our wastewater facilities with litter. They kill wildlife."
The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) has filed suit over Austin's ban, claiming it violates state law. While the case is pending, the TRA is advising its members to comply with the ordinance.
With the move away from single use bags, Austin joins Brownsville, South Padre Island and Fort Stockton, and Dobbs says the number will keep growing.
"Austin is pretty bold in taking care of both the plastic and paper bag," he says. "But it's something that's building around the country and around the world. People are recognizing that these products just don't have a future if we're going to be sustainable."
Among the cities currently pushing forward with similar efforts is Corpus Christi. An ordinance that would place a fee on plastic bags is being drafted, and is expected to come up for a vote later this spring.
Neil McQueen with the Coastal Bend Surfrider Foundation says in Corpus Christi it's definitely needed.
"We have a major issue here with plastic bags," he says, "probably because it's so windy and because we have so much water around here and a lot of tourism related to that water."
Nationally, reports indicate only one to three percent of plastic bags are recycled, with almost 100 billion plastic bags thrown away every year.