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Attorney General to Weigh in On Legality of Plastic Bag Bans

by: Emily Cadik

Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 02:30 PM CDT

Plastic bag bans in several Texas cities are already having an impact on litter and waste in their communities. With a preponderance of free and low-cost reusable bags, these ordinances require little more than some advance planning on the part of consumers. But the retail lobby and their representatives in the legislature are doing everything they can to stop them.

Most recently, Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton) is seeking an opinion from the Attorney General about whether the initiatives comply with Texas health and safety laws - his opinion being that they do not. In a letter to Greg Abbott, Flynn cites a section of the code that prohibits fees on containers or packages for solid waste management purposes. Solid waste is not typically what people buy at grocery stores, but he and the anti-bag-ban lobby it's worth a shot.

Though an opinion from the AG is not legally binding, it could certainly discourage other cities from moving ahead with their own for fear of lawsuits. With other cities like San Antonio, Dallas and Corpus Christi currently considering bans, the decision could be pivotal in how quickly these cities move to reduce plastic bag waste.

There's more after the jump.

So what's the motivation behind fighting bag bans? Flynn claims that he "can't begin to tell you how many phone calls we received about the legality of the bans," despite the fact that there are no bag bans in his district. The main arguments from consumers are that the bans are annoying, and that bag bans don't really make a difference. Then of course there is opposition from those who manufacture plastic bags, or who don't like additional regulations on retailers.

But the alternative is waste and pollution of an enormous magnitude. For instance, prior to the bag ban, Austin was estimated to use 263 million plastic bags per year - almost all of which went straight to the trash. Estimates show that fewer than 1 percent of plastic bags are actually recycled.

That's why the country and the state are moving towards adopting more and more bag bans, despite the best efforts of conservative lawmakers and lobbyists. "This is a cynical attempt by the retail lobby to undo local policies when they were unable to either solve the problem or defeat the proposed solutions in a democratic fashion," according to the Texas Campaign for the Environment."Local governments are the ones who have to deal with the impacts of bag pollution, and local governments should have the power to address this problem."

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