Dallas Will Charge Fees for Plastic Bag Use

The Dallas City Council has passed a proposal ordering retailers to charge a fee for one-time use plastic bags while partially banning them from city-owned facilities.

In a 8-6 vote, the council passed the ordinance requiring retailers to charge customers a $0.05 fee if they request single-use plastic or paper bags.

Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway accepted the compromise of a bag fee after spending a year fighting for a ban on single-use bags.

"This is an opportunity for us to clean our city, to clean our environment and to move forward, and to be like the other cities across the country and around the world," Caraway said.

Zac Trahan with Texas Campaign for The Environment said Austin and eight smaller Texas cities have taken stronger action by banning single-use bags, but he still supported the Dallas regulations.

"It’s still a step in the right direction because it will still result in a huge reduction in the number of bags that will be distributed," he said. 

The ordinance also requires those retailers to register with the city and track the number of single-use bags sold.

The retailer would keep 10 percent of the environmental fee with the remainder going to the city to fund enforcement and education efforts.

Lee Califf, the executive director of the bag manufacturers' group American Progressive Bag Alliance, released the following statement after the ordinance was passed.

“The vote to approve a 5-cent plastic and paper grocery bag fee in Dallas is another example of environmental myths and junk science driving poor policy in the plastic bag debate. This legislation applies to a product that is less than 0.5% of municipal waste in the United States and typically less than 1% of litter in studies conducted across the country. The City Council rushed through a flawed bill to appease its misguided sponsor, despite the fact that 70% of Dallas residents opposed this legislation in a recent poll.
“Placing a fee on a product with such a minuscule contribution to the waste and litter streams will not help the environment; but it will cost Dallas consumers millions more per year on their grocery bills, while hurting small businesses and threatening the livelihoods of the 4,500 Texans who work in the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry. Councilman Caraway may view this vote as a victory for his political career, but there are no winners with today’s outcome.”

Several Council Members opposed any new restrictions.

Rick Callahan said grocery bags are only a small part of the Dallas litter problem and better recycling education is needed.

"Banning something or adding a fee, putting more regulation on business is not the answer," Callahan said.

The ordinance does ban single-use plastic or paper bags  at city-owned facilities and events.

It still allows distributing multi-use, or stronger, paper or plastic bags for free so stores can get around charging the fee by offering better bags.

The ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

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