Speak Up Austin: Public input on plastic bag ban
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Officials with the City of Austin have been trying to fine-tune an ordinance that would eliminate plastic bags from grocery store checkout lanes.
Now, the city council and other city staff are working on a third draft of the mandate.
Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert said about 10 percent of the so-called single-use bags get a second use. He said they are not recyclable because plastic bags are too thin and often jam up sorting machines at the recycling plant.
In a memo to city council Thursday, Gedert estimates that costs $184,000 a year in repairs alone. Overall, he estimates cleaning up the littered bags costs Austin upwards of $800,000 a year.
What isn't picked up by litter crews often ends up in the waterways, Gedert says, and the waste is forming massive so-called plastic islands in the ocean--floating plastic debris that, in some cases, covers an area larger than Texas.
“These islands are composed strictly of plastic that are floating from different shores around the world,” he said. “What ties it together interestingly enough, is plastic bags.”
Retailers want to phase in the changes over time, and Gedert says some plastic bags need to be exempt from the ban because they are still recyclable.
City leaders began getting public input last October. Another forum will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at Austin City Hall.
"We have gotten a lot of stakeholder input from retailers and from environmentalists, but what I really want to seek out of Monday's meeting is citizen input," Gedert said. "We are looking for citizens and consumers, how they react to single-use bags and how they would support or not support reusable bags."
You can also weigh in on the discussion by visiting SpeakUpAustin.org.