The End of “Paper or Plastic” in Austin
Austin’s going bag-less.
29 days from now Austin’s Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance goes into effect. If all of this is news to you, here are some of the facts.
The ordinance, unanimously passed by City Council on March 2, 2012, regulates the types of bags that can be distributed by business establishments in Austin and encourages a shift to reusable bags. The ordinance does not eliminate all plastic or paper carryout bags, but it does set some requirements for the types of bags allowed. You can check out the nitty gritty details of the ordinance, including which types of bags are allowed, here.
According to some estimates, Austinites use 263 million plastic bags a year. Fewer bags will reduce the amount of waste Austin sends to the landfill, moving us closer to our zero-waste goal.
For many of you, this is no sweat off your back. You may be a reusable bag guru, and would rather precariously pile things in your arms than accept a plastic bag.
Since opening our doors, the only bags found at in.gredients are small recycled paper bags (for people who’ve forgotten their containers) and reusable bags of various types and sizes. Our commitment to being a zero-waste and package-free store has been well received, with our customers taking an extra step to bring their own bags and containers.
If the thought of not hearing “paper or plastic” at the checkout feels strange, here’s how to prepare. Gather all those bags you already have and put them in easily accessible locations- your car, your bike bag, your purse- so you’ll never be without one. If you don’t have any reusable bags, get some from your favorite store or farmers market. Or if you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can make your own out of recycled materials (choose something heavy duty, so it won’t break with the weight of groceries.) It’s always nice to have a small foldable bag that you can keep in your purse or pocket, so you won’t have to panic if and when you forget your bags (it’s bound to happen.) You’ll also want to make sure to wash your bags on a regular basis, avoiding food contaminants.
Moving away from single-use bags is happening internationally. In 2009, the United Nations Environmental Program called for a worldwide ban on lightweight plastic bags. In some African countries (Mali, Mauritania, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya) certain types of plastic bags are banned. Italy was the first nation in Europe to ban plastic bags, with France following suit by 2014. In other countries (Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Taiwan and some cities in India) certain plastic bags are taxed. Here in the US, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Brownsville, Texas have implemented versions of bag bans or specific bag-related taxes.
It’s catching on, and we’re proud that Austin is following suit.
To celebrate this step towards sustainability, Austin Zero Waste Alliance is throwing a “Bag to the Future” party on Thursday, February 28th at 8 pm. Come dance to the sweet tunes of Whiskey Shivers as we applaud our progress in becoming a zero-waste city. Stay tuned for the more details on the event. Here’s to a less wasteful future, everywhere!
(Photo: Chicago Tonight)