Will San Angelo Soon Ban Plastic Bags?

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by Lauren Lopez

Oct 6, 2013

Pollution is a main reason behind San Angelo's proposed single-use plastic bag ban. (LIVE! Photo by Lauren Lopez)
Pollution is a main reason behind San Angelo's proposed single-use plastic bag ban. (LIVE! Photo by Lauren Lopez)
In Brief: 
  • A San Angelo task force hopes to put the single-use bag ban into effect in the city
  • The group says education about pollution is a main target of their coalition
  • The group aims to involve citizens in the decision-making process
  • Several residents think the bag ban may not be the right solution
  • Similar bans are in effect throughout Texas and the U.S.

Imagine your once-weekly and often dreaded trip to Wal-Mart. You’ve pushed a squeaking cart with one cocked wheel a felt half-mile around the store, gone back to the produce section twice, and after waiting in line for what seems like 45 minutes, you’ve finally reached the checkout.

Your cart is full and you’re almost done, but as the cashier begins to bag your first few items, she stops. Did you remember to bring your own bags with you? It seems not. Now Rhonda on checkout lane two is throwing all your single items back into the basket after she scans them.

Sound far-fetched? It may not be too far from the truth for much longer. As plastic shopping bags continue to be a pollutant to the countryside and the Concho, a movement is afoot to put a limit on the littering.

Christy Youker, along with several other residents, has formed a task force to bring a single-use plastic bag ban to San Angelo.

“There are lots of options and there is no one-size-fits-all,” Youker said of how San Angelo could implement the initiative.

Other cities throughout Texas have passed ordinances to decrease the amount of plastic shopping bags being used. Each ordinance varies from city to city.  

“We need to take our time so we can develop our own model for San Angelo,” Youker said.

The group wants to meet with city officials and have public forums in order to better understand the needs and concerns of the people in San Angelo.

“We don’t want to go and do the same thing as other cities. Our city is different and we need to take that into account,” Youker said

She said the ordinance in San Angelo would have exemptions. Plastic bags would be available in grocery stores for meats and produce as well as in restaurants and food services.

In October of 2012, a petition was circulated. Since then, Youker says that about 500 residents have signed it.

The group wants to do a feasibility study to see just how many residents of San Angelo support a plastic bag ban.

“We want it to be a decision by the people of San Angelo,” Youker said.

The group plans on looking at models from other cities in order to develop their own for San Angelo.

Dr. Christine Muelsch, a San Angelo resident from Germany said, “There are surely enough other things that cause more damage to the environment than plastic bags.”

In Germany, if the customer does not bring their own packaging, supermarkets will charge 10-20 cents per bag.

Muelsch said, “Aldi (a German discounter like Family Dollar with groceries) offers empty boxes for packaging. Aldi justifies not offering shopping bags with their low prices. Perhaps Wal-Mart can offer price cuts and expect shoppers to bring their own bags.”

She said, “I don’t find the German solution ideal either because it unloads the costs solely on the individual consumers.”

Lynn Shipley, the unit director at H-E-B, said that the littering of plastic bags could better be resolved through education rather than by eliminating the bags all together.

“We are forcing the customers to choose what form of bag to use and it is not being provided by the business, that becomes an inconvenience,” Shipley said of how an ordinance would affect customers at H-E-B.

He said by increasing the education of recycling plastic bags, less littering would take place as well as less bags being found in the landfill.

Shipley said, “We need to give it a fair effort to try to conserve and recycle and really educate our community and have pride in the beauty of San Angelo.”

The task force agrees that education is pivotal to making a change, and as such is included as the primary component of their plan.

The greatest challenge they face in banning single-use plastic bags is people feeling that the government is taking over another aspect of their life.

Youker said the focus is not political but rather about “making this community more beautiful and encouraging people to pick up trash; to keep it off the ground, and not let those plastic bags flow.”

However, not everyone sees it that way.

Earlier this year Odessa tried to pass a similar ordinance, but locals did not let it get too far. Many of them felt their rights would be trampled upon if they were not allowed to have a choice on the packaging of their groceries.

Another issue at hand is whether reusable bags can be considered more sanitary.

According to a report by Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright of the University of Texas,“ reusable grocery bags harbor harmful bacteria, the most important of which is E. coli.”

Klick and Wright studied the effects of plastic bag bans in California. In their study they found that ER admissions increased by at least one fourth relative to California counties that did not enforce a ban.

They stated, “Subsequent bans in other California municipalities resulted in similar increases. An examination of deaths related to intestinal infections shows a comparable increase.”

What do you think is the best way to keep San Angelo beautiful? Do we need a city ordinance or is education enough?

 

 

Comments

sources

I don't think the limited sample size from that study is valid. Most grocery stores were having customers use paper right after the ban.
Also... From another article....
The Klick-Wilson study came to many of the same conclusions reached in a 2010 report from researchers out of the University of Arizona, Tucson and Loma Linda University in California. That study was roundly castigated for being funded by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade group that advocates for the plastic bag industry.

The author Wright, a George Mason University professor, was appointed last month to the Federal Trade Commission by President Barack Obama to fill a seat vacated by a Republican. Wright has a lengthy record of advocating against anti-trust enforcement and government regulation. Klick, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an economist at RAND, is associated with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Good idea!

I think the ban is a good idea. But why can't we use paper bags? Especially if the customer leaves their reusable bags at home. And this whole thing with the reusable bags harboring bacteria, maybe people just need to be mindful to wash those bags and properly wash their food before eating. I support the plastic bag ban!

Quiet simply

It works pretty well in Austin, took a few months to get in the habit of bringing bags to shop, but the amount of trash lowered considerably from all that bag waste. I don't even take bags in other cities once I became adapted to this new way and feel it won't take people in Angelo to Adapt either.. Good luck spinning the info as the guy above is trying. It's quiet simple and really doesn't hurt anything (besides getting things cheaper - lower cost for the grocery stores also - which trickles down).

why not???

I say go for it....what would it hurt to try and clean things up??? And like the previous comment said (by jb) maybe it will lower costs.

Plastic bags

Before we start passing laws that may or may not solve the problem (and there IS a problem) there are other things we can try.
To begin with--if there are only one or two items, the bagger should ask the customer if he/she wants a bag. Often I have had one or two items placed in a bag when I would have gladly carried them. (If my mind is firing on all cylinders--a rarity in itself--I will tell the bagger that I don't want a bag.) If it has a handle--a carton of milk, a six pack, a bag of grapes--what purpose does the bag serve?
The idea of charging for bags is something to consider. Some stores offer a discount if the shopper brings a bag. That's probably not as effective as charging, but it's not as volatile either.
Education has done a lot in making the public more aware of pollution. Before we start passing new ordinances, I say go all out in other ways to resolve the issue.

city bans

its going to take a billboard at the city limits to list the do's and don'ts and banned things in this city. bags were worst north of the south walmart due to lack of mowing and west texas mesquite trees. walmart changed from blue to white bags. A ban on bags will be enforced by who? besides the view will soon be blocked by blue cans in every ones already crowded streets. just more reasons to keep prospective residents, businesses and employers from considering SAN ANGELO as their home

The solution:

Charge every customer $0.10 (that's 10 cents) for each bag. Have the stores that offer bags accept returns from anyone at $0.05 per bag. Then, tell all of the bums that hang out around my building downtown that they can go hang out at Wal-Mart, collect bags, and make a mint. It solves three problems: 1) The bags will disappear, as they are like money, 2) The bums can actually do something constructive all day instead of panhandling, and 3) Wal-Mart's MBAs can declare that their spreadsheets made even more profit off of the bags and pat themselves on the back for doing something good.

plastic bags

It appears to me that everyone is focusing on the wrong end! The problem here is not the fact that the grocery stores (all stores) use plastic bags for their customers. The problem is that these plastic bags end up all over the environment - and people are simply too lazy to go out and pick up trash! If we addressed the problem of trash, we wouldn't be trying to figure out how to stop me from using plastic bags if I so wanted to use them. But because we don't want to address the trash issue, we skip up to the next problem balloon - the stores who give out the plastic bags! Simply another way to inconvenience the populace and not address the issue of trash/littering/lazyness. Game's called "Let's Pass a Law!" - find something you don't like and figure out how to inconvenience as many people as possible while making it sound economically/environmentally exciting, and then pass a law! Yeah - we need more laws!