The End of “Paper or Plastic” in Austin

with 27 comments


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)

Written by cscdavis

January 31, 2013 at 11:25 am

27 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. So you want this to be a national thing? No. If you want it in your city that’s okay, but when you start talking about doing this on the national level, you’re really talking about ridding of people’s rights!

    People should be held accountable for their actions and they should make the proper choice regarding whether to use plastic bags, but they shouldn’t be FORCED to go out and buy some reusable bag. That’s unconstitutional. But you liberals don’t care about the Constitution anyway. I’m surprised Obama hasn’t already made this a federal law.

    John Scrumptious

    January 31, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    • Why are you so defensive about such a good thing? Not only would it be better for the environment, but eliminating disposable bags would help cost for big and small. Do you own a bag company or something? LOL


      February 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    • Conservatives will make any excuse to have THEIR rights protected. So much for protecting the environment and the world for future generations. Why don’t conservatives like you find something more beneficial to hark about. Like for instance, why don’t you find a solution for the over population problem.

      Ida Klein

      February 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    • I don’t really feel like humans have any particular “right” to use a plastic bag unless they make it or know the person who makes them. The process of making plastic bags relies heavily on fossil fuels through every single stage of production including the product to make the bag itself. Petroleum is a product of a very complex system that most people aren’t capable of even attempting. To me it seems that the right lies within the ability to manifest said right… We need to simplify our lives. I totally commend Austin on this massive effort because they are truly being a leader!! I hope more cities will follow.

      I hope you don’t mind if I re-blog this.. I think my readers would find it very valuable!



      February 1, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    • You have the right to suffocate yourself with any plastic bag you wish


      February 28, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      • This made my day. Good idea. I’m glad to see someone who understands the idea recycling plastic bags for good causes.

        Tarek Elmani

        March 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    • John, did you really just write that? Wow!

      No need to go out and buy reusable bags… just keep all the plastic bags you can now and keep reusing them. Or, if you don’t want to look like the plastic bag ass, then make your own bags out of recycled materials (a few old t-shirts or jeans can be sewn together to create a nice bag – I imagine your size to be very large so you may be able to make a quite a few bags). Problem solved.

      You are right, people should be held accountable for their actions. Like getting fined for polluting with plastic bags. And, did I miss the part about plastic bags in the Constitution? Plastic bags didn’t exist back then, dude.


      March 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    • The constitution doesn’t care about the world’s health, and if you keep fighting against good things simply because they’re ‘unconstitutional’ in the silliest ways, this world won’t survive.

      Jennifer Elford

      March 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      • This is a major problem. If we do not change our thinking for newer problems faced by humanity, we won’t survive. This kind of changing is necessary. I’m sad there are people like this man who don’t understand this simple fact. Also glad to see there are more of the younger generation changing for the better.

        Tarek Elmani

        March 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    • Your rights, huh? From this one post, I’d say you’re one of the more controlled people I know. You’re talking about reading and following, 100%, a piece of paper written by men from a different time battling different problems. Rethink your logic, sir.

      Tarek Elmani

      March 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    • John
      Your an idiot, since when is the right to use a plastic bag, how about the the rights of the Environment, you should pull your head out of your ass and look around and see what plastic is doing to life other then humans, you know there are other living things on this planet besides humans, dumb ass.


      March 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

  2. I keep my reusable bags in the trunk of my car…I shop and all the items go back in my cart…i bag at the car..I don’t have to remember to bring them in!


    January 31, 2013 at 1:35 pm

  3. Reblogged this on jangeden and commented:
    This is just awesome. More cities should follow this lead…


    January 31, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    • I agree….all cities should be doing this….let’s try to leave a cleaner world for our children. I’ts a good thing, why is everyone getting so defensive? (and to answer some fanatics…it’s not your “right” to polute the earth)


      March 1, 2013 at 12:37 am

  4. then what will I use to pick up my dog poop? I’ll have to buy bags for that!
    …and yes, nobody should “ban” my right to use plastic bags if I want to. Just more govt.


    January 31, 2013 at 6:03 pm

  5. You don’t HAVE to buy a reusable bag. I’ve gotten free ones from the City of Laredo, and I’ve also bought a couple at HEB. In Brownsville, people who don’t take a bag to the grocery store just have their groceries put into the cart after being purchased and hauled to the car like that. I applaud Austin.

    Jesus Quiroz

    January 31, 2013 at 6:09 pm

  6. I reuse my grocey bags as liners for small trash cans, so this ordinance just forces me to buy trash can liners (i.e. single use bags) that will still be sent to the landfill.


    January 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm

  7. Plastic bags are not banned in South Africa. In 2003 we had to start paying for them with a portion of the cost going to a recycling programme of some sorts.


    February 1, 2013 at 12:59 am

    • Thank you for pointing this out. We’re sorry for the lack of clarification in the post – lightweight plastic bags were banned in 2003, while heavier weighted plastic bags are taxed. We will edit the post to reflect this. Cheers!


      February 1, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      • No problem. The good thing about this is that you don’t get as many bags littering everywhere hanging from trees and fences etc. like there used to be. I remember a certain supermarket’s plastic bag being refered to as the national flower. I’m really surprised by the opposition to an initiative like this in the States.


        February 2, 2013 at 5:23 am

  8. So now I have to buy my trash bags for all my little trash cans?
    Thats stupid.


    February 1, 2013 at 7:45 am

  9. Reblogged this on Re-Grow Roots and commented:
    in.gredients is a grocery store in Austin, TX that has been totally waste free since their opening in 2012! They are a leader in the homegrown movement to simplify and localize the lives of Austinites. I find inspiration and motivation in their fascinating blog posts.


    February 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm

  10. I lived in Germany from 1983-1986. Their currency was the “mark” at the time and if you wanted a bag at a store you had to pay 10 pfennigs. It was common for women to carry wicker baskets for their purchases in the city and I picked up the habit and found it kind of neat. At the commissary (we were military) the bags were paper but I often saw wives carrying baskets if they were making small purchases. The lining in the baskets were extra long and had a draw string so if you needed more room for your purchases you just had to pull it out and tie it! I do think there is a fine line on our rights and bans, but plastic bags isn’t one of them. The ban NY City Mayor Bloomberg placed on fountain drinks is crossing the line. I say that not as a soda drinker (I usually drink water or plain tea), but as a citizen of the US who feels it’s our business how much we drink.


    February 24, 2013 at 3:06 pm

  11. Watch “Bag It” A documentary and then you will understand the reasoning behind this ban. I no longer
    use these bags after seeing this. You don’t need to line your trash cans. Put the gooey stuff in any other
    bag/container you have from goods you buy. (bread bags, produce bags) Put the dry stuff in the can and just dump it periodically. There is a way to not be dependent on these. Think outside the box. NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION. There were no plastic bags when I was a child!

    Lucy Packer

    March 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm

  12. I think that every store should do what they do at Aldi. They charge like a nickle to use paper or plastic bags. The plastic ones cost more than the paper ones. Most people end up re-using the product boxes that the stock guys have left over from stocking instead unless they are buying a mega ton of stuff. They also offer reusable bags for around a dollar.


    March 1, 2013 at 1:01 pm

  13. Asking you to visualize here. I made several sturdy reusable bags out of old t-shirts. You cut off the sleeves, that makes the handles. I cut the neckline deeper. Than sewed the bottom shut. It took a bit, but I figured out how to sew the bottom to be square.

    Donna Fitpatrick

    March 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: