March 3rd, 2012 - At 2:05 am Friday morning, March 1st, the Austin City Council approved an ordinance which prohibits retailers from providing single-use carryout bags to customers. Added as an amendment to the City Code, the ordinance prohibits all retailers from providing plastic or paper disposable bags to its customers or any person.
The ordinance states that business establishments, within the city limits, may provide or sell reusable carryout bags to its customers or any person. A reusable carryout bag is defined as a carryout bag that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.
A reusable carryout bag must also meet established criteria, which includes, but not limited to, being constructed of:
- Cloth, other washable fabric, or other durable material, woven or non-woven
- Recyclable plastic, with a minimum thickness of 4.0 mil
- Recyclable paper
There was considerable discussion by the Council about the certification standards of the recyclable paper bag. Staff recommended that the recycled paper bags should bear a label certifying that the bags was made with wood from a sustainably managed forest, namedly, the FSC certification. Mayor Leffingwell offered a friendly amendment to remove the certification standards and Council could later make an amendment to the ordinance after further study of the issue.
There was also a question of whether there was a manufacturer in the U.S. that makes 4.0 mil plastic bags. A definitive answer could not be given by Staff. Staff said there was plenty of available sources to purchase the bag but Staff could not verify the manufacturers of the bags.
After a little over 30 minutes of discussing the ordinance, Council voted 7-0 to approve the addition of the Carryout Bag Ordinance to the City Code, after almost five years since discussions first began. There will be further amendments and rules to clarify the ordinance in the near future. As it stands, the ordinance will take effect on March 1st, 2013 and all retailers will be affected.