Dallas' plastic bag ordinance is now a thing of the past

Five months after it was passed, Council member Dwaine Caraway vehemently and theatrically defended the ban he had championed,

DALLAS – City Council voted to repeal the city's plastic bag ordinance last week over the objections of Councilman Dwaine Caraway and others.

Starting Monday, retailers in the city will no longer be required to charge an environmental fee for every bag they provide customers. Under the ordinance, retailers had been forced to charge an environmental fee starting at five cents per bag.

The council considered two proposals Wednesday.

One would have amended that bag ordinance so that plastic bags could not be sold or given away, effectively banning "single-use" plastic bags in the city. That failed in a 9-5 vote.

The second proposal was a full repeal of the city's ordinance regarding bags, which went into effect on January 1. That passed, meaning bags can again be offered for free from the city's retailers beginning on Monday.

Dwaine Caraway, Sandy Greyson, Scott Griggs, and Philip Kingston were the only council members who voted to keep the ordinance in place.

Caraway in particular fought hard both in favor of a full bag ban. He said he will keep fighting for a full ban, and mentioned opposition from industry groups, such as large grocery chains, who were against the ordinance.

"We'll fight our way to the voting boxes, and we'll fight and find people with a backbone -- a commitment to the future and not commitment to the industry," he said. "Because the industry didn't fill out those votes, the industry didn't go to the polls [...] and have us sit here. We sit here on behalf of you. We're supposed to represent you and we're supposed to protect you, and not be run over like a train behind money relationships."

In January, News 8 found some smaller businesses and consumers were also confused by details in the nine-page ordinance.

Mayor Mike Rawlings explained the logic in repealing in bag ban in three parts.

First, he said, he doesn't believe the city does a good job enforcing the ordinances that are on the books.

"We have 900 ordinances, and ordinances we don't do anything about," he said, citing an ordinance that requires pets in Dallas to be spayed or neutered that more or less goes unenforced.

Second, the mayor said he believed a full ban would lead to another lawsuit, which he was uncertain if the city would win.

Finally, Rawlings said he thinks the next Texas legislature is likely take away the city's authority to pass such an ordinance in two years.

"I don't like what is happening in Austin. I would like to have our authority to make these decisions," the mayor said, "but reality is reality."

Caraway said he wanted to write a tell-all book about the bag battle.

More than $500,000 was raised in from the environmental fees in the five months of the bag ordinance. What to do with those proceeds will be discussed at a later date.


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