Austin's bag ban begins


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on March 1, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Updated Friday, Mar 1 at 6:58 PM

AUSTIN -- Goodbye thin plastic bags, hello canvass.

The City of Austin's single use bag ban went into effect Friday, March 1st.

"I think it's stupid," said Connie Mallory, who is not a fan of the ban. 

"It's not that big a thing I suppose when everything is said and done," countered Polly Franks.

Like it or not, Austinites seemed to remember to pack their bags as they headed out Friday.

"I'm just standing at one of the stores watching and I'm just shocked that less than 10 percent of their customers don't have their reusable bags," said HEB Director of Public Affairs  Leslie Sweet.

"I remembered my insulated bag and I remembered the bag that the fine folks at another store had given me, but I actually had to buy two bags today. I didn't have enough," said Clay Darby who was shopping at HEB. 

Many stores are giving away reusable plastic bags, including HEB. The grocery chain is offering free bags through the weekend.

There is also a backup plan for shoppers.

"As an option of last resort, if they forgot their bags at home and don't want to buy more reusable bags, they can request to use the emergency access fee for $1 per order, and we can give them single-use paper and plastic bags if they absolutely need it," said HEB Director of Public Affairs Leslie Sweet.

Money from those sales will be used to for "Free Bag Fridays" once a month.

Whole Foods Market is getting into the spirit of the ban, giving out bags, despite the fact the grocery chain stopped using thin plastic bags five years ago.

"In celebration of everybody across the city doing this, we're handing out free better bags. Which we have our own Austin specific better bags," said Richard Gabaree, Whole Foods Marketing Team Leader.

Whole Foods shoppers even get 10 cents off their purchase for each reusable bag they bring in.

Still, some people around town seemed to have missed the memo and were caught off guard when they went into non-grocery stores. For instance, the Star Store Shell station.

"Some people are surprised, 'oh it's no bag today,' said Manager Karim Ali. "I said yes, it's March 1st, no bag no more."

Subway patrons are also having to get used to the change. 

"I've never seen a basket thing," said Robert Pfeil who was eating at Subway Friday.

Plastic bags have been replaced with baskets when customers dine in and there are now paper bags for to go orders.

Over at Chris' Liquor on South Lamar Boulevard, managers are playing it safe, handing out boxes.

"We are really just kind of playing it by ear, really. We're still trying to learn the compliance," said Manager Joseph Najm.


There are some exemptions to the ban, including dry-cleaning bags, newspaper delivery bags, some types of takeout food bags and bags used for fish, meat, poultry, produce, bulk goods and pharmaceuticals.

Austinites say they will just have to get used to the change and the extra work it takes to maintain reusable bags.

"It's just a nuisance. And you're going to have to take them and turn them inside out and spray them ever so often, otherwise they're going to be worse than the plastic bag," said Franks.

"You want to treat it just the way you'd want to handle your food, you know, if you were in the store. So remember let's not put your soccer cleats and everything else in the same bag you put your chicken," added Sweet.

Businesses that do not comply could face a Class C misdemeanor punishable by daily fines of up to $2,000.