Problems with Plastic Bag Ordinance

RECEIVED Tue., Aug. 20, 2013

Dear Editor,
    While I'm happy to do what I can to reduce the amount of garbage I produce, the execution of our single-use plastic bag ban ordinance leaves a lot to be desired. One nasty side effect is that H-E-B, which clearly accounts for the majority of grocery sales in Austin (and therefore bag usage) is using the measure to add to its bank account. Not only have they eliminated a cost in no longer giving away bags, they have added a revenue stream in the form of bag sales.
    Furthermore, and more appalling, it seems that on occasions when H-E-B fails to stock the thick plastic reusable bags, customers who have forgotten their bags at home or would otherwise be buying the 25-cent bags are forced to pay a $1 fee to use – guess what – the old-style single-use plastic bags that are still given away free in other cities. This fee is regardless of the size of your order, so in many cases it costs more than what the 25-cent bags would have cost. The fee goes not to the city or any kind of charitable fund, but right into H-E-B's coffers.
    So customers end up paying extra, and H-E-B pockets extra profit, as a direct result of a mistake they made in stocking. Or was it a mistake? There is nothing stopping them from intentionally creating this situation by not ordering the reusable bags they need. Bottom line: Corporate entities need to be contributing to the monetary cost of reducing waste, just like customers do, not profiting from it. And profiting from one's own mistake due to a city ordinance is simply unethical, greedy, and symptomatic of bad lawmaking. Is there now any wonder why H-E-B supported the bag ban?
Roger Topham
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