No more plastic bags in Brownsville

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

The eyes of retail will be on Brownsville this week as the city forges ahead as the first in Texas to ban single-use plastic bags.

The ordinance against the so-called “urban tumbleweeds” [started] Wednesday, and merchants from the big-box national retailers on down are on board with a mix of reusable bags for sale, ranging from cloth totes to Wal-Mart Stores’ reusable plastic bags that are supposed to withstand 50 uses.

That’s in addition to the tens of thousands already given away at community events throughout the year.

“We’ve got national support for a local cause,” said Rose Timmer, executive director of Healthy Communities of Brownsville, the nonprofit group that championed the ban.

Residents who haven’t purchased or gotten some of the freebie reusable bags from local nonprofits and other businesses will have to bring bags from home, buy reusable bags or pay a $1 surcharge at the register to have goods packed in stores’ remaining single-use bags.


Naysayers have said shoppers simply will go to neighboring communities rather than be inconvenienced, but [city Commissioner Edward] Camarillo said that’s empty talk.

“Look at the price of gasoline right now,” he said. “We don’t believe that this is going to cause them to drive out of their way to another community just because there is no plastic bag.”

I think it’s highly unlikely people will drive out of town to avoid paying a $1 surcharge. As Commissioner Camarillo noted, the extra you’d spend on gas doing so would wipe that out and then some. Plus, the grocery store business is built on convenience and proximity. I don’t see people preferring to change where they shop instead of changing their bagging habits.

There is one point of concern:

Brownsville resident Fred Garza, 21, said he anticipates “chaos.”

He said many people, himself included, use the single-use bags to line waste bins or clean up after pets, and he thinks it would be more wasteful to have to buy the bags.

I admit, I’ve used bags from the grocery store to clean up after my dog. Mostly I use the bags that the Chronicle comes in for that purpose, but that may not be an option for you in Brownsville. You can always choose to pay the surcharge if you don’t have any other means by which to deal with this.

Anyway, if this works the way its designers intend, I’ll bet you see other cities try to adopt similar plans. I won’t be surprised at all to see it on a Houston City Council agenda in another year or so. What do you think?

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6 Responses to No more plastic bags in Brownsville

  1. Brad M. says:

    Good for Brownsville. I hope it happens here in Houston. You’ll see a lot of lobbying and belly-aching beforehand and then I’d bet one month after implementation it will be a non-issue.

  2. blank says:

    My generaly philosophy on bans is that they are a lost opportunity to tax something. This seems like one of those cases. Don’t Ban it! Tax it!

  3. Brenda Helverson says:

    Our little City in Washington banned plastic bags about 6 months ago. I’m all for it, but for me it is a pain in the ass. I am a dedicated recycler and used the plastic grocery bags to dispose of cat poop and other noxious things and for grouping my smaller recyclables together for easier sorting. I had to buy a roll of small trash bags and when I shop in an adjacent city I often ask for double-bagging. So in some ways I have actually made things worse. And now I have a big stack of paper bags that I can only recycle. I am transitioning to fabric bags but they aren’t free and need washing. It is also easier for me to juggle 3 or 4 plastic bags with handles than a paper bag with handles that thend to fail at teh worst times. But like any Professional Martyr, I’m suffering through it to save the Planet.

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