Plastic Bag Ordinance

On December 15, 2009, the City of Brownsville passed the first noteworthy ordinance of its kind in the State of Texas.  The ordinance stipulated the creation of the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC). The EAC met once a week until the ordinance became effective on January 5, 2011. The EAC included the following:


·        Brownsville Grocers (4 members)

·        Brownsville Committees (4 members)

·        Brownsville Shopping Centers ( 1 member)

·        City Commissioners (1 member)

·        Other Brownsville Businesses (1 member)


Why did Brownsville pass an ordinance banning plastic bags?
Brownsville has a significant litter problem, and plastic bags account for a large amount of it-they are handed out to consumers in huge number each day. The plastic bags we see drifting along Brownsville street and sidewalk snagging in trees, or floating in our resacas is more than just a scar on our environment-they choke resaca and canal drains and harm wildlife.
Are other cities in Texas banning plastic bags?
Yes- the most recent being Ft. Stockton, in west Texas. Also the City of Austin has contacted the City of Brownsville for advice in creating its own plastic bag ban. Plastic bags bans are going nationwide, too-Westport, Conn.; Bethel, Alaska; San Francisco, Calif.; and Edmonds, Wash., have bans in place as well. In fact places around the entire world-cities in South Africa, Australia, China, and India, for example-have enacted bag bans.
What is considered a reusable bag?
A reusable bag is a bag specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse. This means a bag made either of cloth or other washable fabric, or other durable material-such as 65# paper bags (with handles), or even plastic bags as long as they are 4.0 mil thick.
What plastic bags, if any, as still being utilized by stores that are exceptions to the ban?
Retail clothing stores and dry cleaners can provide garment bag made of plastic. Also, veterinarians and pharmacies can still provide plastic bags to their customers.
I have many ways that I reuse plastic bags (i.e. take my lunch to work, trashcan liners, pick-up after my dog) and now what do I do?
Most grocery stores have all kinds of plastic bags for sale in many different sizes
What is the $1 fee going to be used for?
The environmental fee is going to be used towards city environmental programs recycling and clean-up initiatives, to help Brownsville go even greener!
Is the $1 permanent or is there a time frame from the initiation of the project?
The goal is to phase out the $1.00 fee. By implementing it at the outset, the intent is to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags. Hopefully consumers will be using reusable bags with such frequency that the fee will no longer be needed.
What if I don't have a dollar to pay for a plastic bag?
Bringing reusable bags to area merchants is easy, but if you find yourself without a bag and without a buck, some stores sell reusable bags for even less.
What happens to the merchants if they bag my items in plastic bags which are not reusable(or thinner that the 4.0 mil weight required by the ordinance)?
Merchants who utilize non-reusable plastic bags without assessing the $1.00 environmental fee will be in violation of the ordinance, which provides a $500 fine for each offense.
Does the $1 fee paper bags?
It depends on the individual retailer--if a retailer supplies non-reusable paper bags to its customers, the $1.00 environmental fee could apply to those as well.
Are all merchants charging the $1 fee, any exceptions?
Any merchant who opts to keep non-reusable bags around to supply for their customers will have to charge the $1 fee during each sales transaction in which these bags are requested by the customer.
Are paper bags an option for customers to request?
At stores which opt to utilize paper bags, yes. But only reusable paper bags could not be subject to the $1.00 fee.
Can customers bring their own plastic bags from home and avoid the fee? Will this be allowed?
Absolutely! The idea behind the ordinance is to encourage the use of reusable bags. This includes a customer's own bag from home---whether it's made from plastic, paper, fabric, leather, or whatever!
What happens if I go to the store and don't have my reusable bags?
If  you find yourself at the store with no reusable bags, you've got plenty of options, Stores will have reusable bags available to purchase, or for a $1.00 environmental fee per transaction, you can obtain non-reusable bags from the store.
Can I bring a box or plastic bags to carry out my groceries?
Absolutely! Consumers are encouraged to bring their own boxes or bags to carry out their purchases.
So, will stores that I shop for clothes have plastic bags, or will I have to bring my own?
It depends on the store. Some stores may opt to provide reusable plastic bags; for those that don't, consumers who are dead-set on using plastic bags will need to bring their own.
How do I avoid paying the dollar tax fee?
Simple---B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Bag)! By the way, the fee is not actually a tax because it is simply being used to dissuade people from using plastic bags and promote environmental efforts.
Do I have to clean my bags?
Clean bags are healthy bags. Throwing you bags in with  your regular laundry on a regular basis keeps them from becoming prone to bacteria growth, which can be harmful to you and your family.
How sanitary are the recycle bags in the long run?
When kept clean on a regular basis, the bags are safe and sanitary. This is as easy as throwing them in the wash with your regular loads of laundry. Look for washing instructions on the bags.
What do I do if my reusable bag can no longer be used because it's falling apart? Do I throw it away or can I recycle it?
Recycle it! Yes, ESD recycling will take the bags, which have a #5 recycling symbol on them.
If my reusable bag has a logo on it, can I use it at any store?
Sure---there's no such thing as "bag etiquette" as far as which store you take you bags to , no matter what they have on them.
Why not just recycle the bags?
Plastic recycling rates across the nation are low. We need a solution that addresses the root of the problem, by eliminating the litter problem at the source.