Dallas reconsiders plastic bag ban after a year of study

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 11:48 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 20 at 9:26 PM

Poll:
Should plastic bags be banned in Dallas?

DALLAS — Plastic bags blend in to the landscape of litter, cling to fence lines, and are an eyesore everywhere.

Windy days seem to exacerbate the issue — especially in South Dallas.

"It's not about this area; it's about this product," said Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway, who represents District 4. "Your taxes are going to go up five years from now just to clean this up."

He is pushing Dallas to ban single-use plastic bags — soon.

"It'll happen before March," Caraway predicted.

Austin has done it. So has Los Angeles.

Dallas has talked about a ban before.

It studied the issue last year, and on Wednesday morning it is returning to the entire Council.

A final vote won’t happen this week, but Council members should give the clearest indication yet whether this proposal will survive in the city.

Opponents say banning bags isn't necessary and could cost stores financially. They favor enforcing existing laws that punish litterers, not retailers.

"In other areas that have banned plastic bags, Kroger has seen sales go down," said Gary Huddleston, a spokesman for the supermarket chain.

Sales have gone down, he added, because customers only purchase what fits in their reusable bags and often avoid impulse items.

Huddleston points to a 2012 survey of grocery stores in Los Angeles County conducted by the National Center of Policy Analysis. 

It surveyed more than 860 stores in LA County after a plastic bag ban there and got a response from a couple dozen, the study states.

“Banning plastic bags reduces employment; provides an unfair advantage to retailers in one geographic area over another; leads to the theft of store shopping carts and shopping baskets; results in customers using more plastic produce bags (thus undercutting the effect of the ban); increases prices for consumers; decreases profit for producers; and decreases economic activity in the area,” NCPA reported.

The Dallas-based NCPA also cited a 2009 study from Keep America Beautiful which said many items drive up litter more than plastic bags, including cigarette butts, food wrappers, cups and cans.

"The solution is a strong recycling program,” Huddleston said. “Maybe it's more education."

Dallas decided to put the issue to a vote, draft a new ordinance based on recommendations from the City Attorney’s Office and put it on the agenda in March.

The exact wording of the resolution and what Caraway will pursue is still being discussed.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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