Dallas Follows Austin and Gets Weird on Plastic Bags

Dallas Follows Austin and Gets Weird on Plastic Bags

On Wednesday Dallas will vote on a “single-use bag ban,” according to local reports. The vote could result in the instating of an “environmental fee ordinance,” under which retailers would be forced to charge customers 10 cents per bag or $1 for an entire purchase.

Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway is intent on seeing the ban pass. He told the Dallas Morning News, “I haven’t been messing with this for a year and a half for nothing. A ban with a fee is no different than a ban. It’s working toward a ban or an elimination of those plastic bags, and that results in a cleaner community and a cleaner environment.”

Caraway, who has been instrumental in bringing the ban to the table, said the amount retailers would charge per bag is not set-in-stone and could “be a point of conversation.” Regardless of the exact amount, the city of Dallas would receive at least half of the collected environmental fees, according to the Morning News

Ronnie Volkening, the President and CEO of the Austin-based Texas Retailers Association, told Breitbart Texas that a bag ban could be unfair to poor families. He said, “We opposed the ban because we feel that it is regressive on families and lower income people. Under the ordinance, you’re sometimes forced to use reusable bags that you need to pay for instead of complimentary bags.”

But council member Lee Kleinman insisted that the environmental fee is “reasonable.” He told Breitbart Texas, “While the fee may seem regressive in nature, the reality is that reusable bags are widely available for free at virtually every event where social services are offered… The cost of the bag is inconsequential. The point of the fee is not to raise revenue or punish users. The point is to remind shoppers to bring in their reusable bags.”

Councilman Rick Callahan disagrees, however, and said the ban is “anti-business,” according to the Morning News. 

Pointing to the bag ban already in place in Austin, Volkening said, “Given that this is a ban that takes place in Austin but not in the neighboring cities, there are many customers that have made it known that they are going to other cities to make their purchases. So it has a detrimental impact on Austin businesses.”

The ban being considered in Dallas echoes Austin’s Single-Use Carry Out Bag Ordinance, which forbids most retailers from giving out plastic shopping bags free of charge in an effort to encourage the use of reusable alternatives.

More specifically, Austin businesses are prohibited from providing “single-use carry-out bags to its customers or any person or entity and shall display signage to educate their customers about their bag options.” Since the ban was put in place last March, other Texas cities such as Corpus Christi have considered similar ordinances. 

Breitbart Texas reported that in Austin, the bag ban’s legality is being questioned. State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton) recently penned a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott, in which she asked him to interpret a specific section of the Texas Health and Safety Code. The letter said, “At least nine cities in Texas have enacted bans on plastic bags and adopted fees on replacement bags in recent years. This appears to be in contravention of state law… I would like your opinion on the legality of these ordinances in light of the prohibition in Section 361.0961 of the Health and Safety Code.”

Section 361.0961 states that local government may not “prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law.”

If passed, Dallas’ proposed bag ban may also be accused of violating Section 361.0961.

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate