(Austin's bag ban is finally in effect! Here with some information on how citizens can help enforce it is Texas Campaign for the Environment. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)
Austin's single-use bag ordinance was the result of over seven years of organizing from a diverse crew of progressive and environmental groups around the city of Austin, and it sets a bold example for other communities interested in taking meaningful steps towards a Zero Waste future.
The ordinance depends upon citizen complaints for enforcement, so here is a quick introduction to the ordinance and how you can help ensure it is being followed.
The ordinance covers both plastic and paper bags, banning them entirely from Austin checkout lines under normal circumstances. It covers grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores and all other retailers. Restaurants received some exemptions, and some stores-including HEB-have been approved to supply single-use bags "for emergency access." Ten businesses have requested time to deplete existing bag stocks; HEB has committed that for the next year they will not have single-use bags visible to customers, but will provide them in the case of an "emergency." They say they will charge $1.00 per transaction in these instances, and they must prove to the city that they are still in compliance with the law's intent. Stay tuned for efforts to ensure FULL compliance next year!
In other businesses, bags given out to consumers-whether for free or for sale-must be reusable. Cloth bags, some very thick plastic bags (such as those used at department stores) and paper bags with handles and high recycled content are defined as reusable. The typical plastic and paper bags you're used to getting for free at most stores are no longer allowed.
If you see a business still giving out or selling single use bags, please do the following:
1. Take pictures if possible, note the time, date and location
2. Call 3-1-1 and file a report with code enforcement
3. Send a message to the Austin Zero Waste Alliance Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AustinZeroWaste
This ordinance depends upon complaints from the public for enforcement, and if it isn't enforced it won't be effective. Thank you for doing your part to help ensure Austin's bag-free future!