City of Austin tries to out-San Francisco the San Francisco, ban plastic and paper bags

Posted by & filed under Oddities, Politics.

Example of washing/drying of plastic bags in Russia, photo (c) 2008 KosmonaFT

I swear, lately the environmentalism turned from venerable goal into some sort of a madness. Fresh example — city of Austin tries to ban plastic and paper bags. Well now, the proposed ordinance on ban of bags is out and it’s just crazy. First of all, both plastic and paper single-use bags will be banned permanently. That part theoretically makes sense, because plastic bags used to be an alternative to chopping up trees for grocery bags (though these days paper bags are mostly made of recycled paper). What doesn’t make sense is demand that each and every bag results in 25c charge for 3 years from 2013. Have five bags of groceries at HEB? That’ll be $1.25 please, in the name of environment. Or buy a China-made and shipped across the world reusable bag (what is it, $4 or so?) and drag several of those around with you every time you could possibly want to stop by the grocery store. Forget DC or San Francisco — those feeble cities charge 5 to 10 cents. We’re going for the win with 25c. Of course Seattle voters said “screw you” to 20c fee, but city of Austin people are more crazy about the environment, right?

And while I personally can afford an extra dollar every time I go grocery shopping, those who are too rich to be on food stamps will be penalized the most. Aside from making grocery shopping similar to what it was back in Russia (where people dragged avoska with them while grocery shopping, washed and re-used plastic bags until they wear out, that kind of staff) “the ban” will force them to spend the most. That or go to Costco on one of those “free guest day” and buy a roll of plastic bags for the same amount and carry that around instead. Or will they attempt to bat sale to end consumer of anything that is not a multi-use bag?

What is going to happen to retailers outside city limits? I live in Austin but I also shop in Sunset Valley. So I guess those who shop in Sunset Valley the bags will be free as usual, but trash is collected by the city of Austin. Or will there be a Trash Police checking where you got your bags? What about trash bags, that most people use to pack their garbage in, those aren’t clogging landfills?

And look at other exemptions. Why on earth do you want to allow newspaper bags to be un-banned and free. What, those clog the landfill less? Local newspapers plaster the whole area with free issues at least once a week, wether you want it or throw it directly into trash.

If city really wants to keep single-use bags out of landfills, the ordinance needs to allow a full (or almost-full, penny-less) refund when you recycle your bag. Fine, charge 25c, but if I bring the bag back for recycling, give me my money back, as it’s not going into landfill. Same for “multi-use” bags, because I’m pretty sure the environmental cost of trying to wash and dry a “multi-use” bag because milk spilled inside or using heaps of paper to wrap all the veggies (and still the bag will get dirty) will be way more than giving out several single-use plastic or paper bags.

So, if you want to help the environment, use your brain a little, and don’t just run with a crazy ideas. Grocery stores switched to single-use bags because it’s convenient, inexpensive and hygienic. Trying to ban them or “fix” behavior with a tax/fee only seems like a good idea, but it has plenty of down sides. Sure, encourage manufacturers to produce more reusable packaging. But don’t just ban all bags outright, or charge an exorbitant fee.

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