Corpus Christi Poised to Impose Plastic Bag Fee

Corpus Christi Poised to Impose Plastic Bag Fee

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, May 6, 2013 (ENS) - Officials in The Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi are urging residents to start bringing their own reusable shopping bags in advance of what is likely to be a new fee on plastic bags.

On February 19, City Council decided that since previous attempts to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags voluntarily have not been effective, more coercive action is required. Council members voted 7-2 to have their staff draft a checkout bag fee ordinance.

On May 14 City Council will consider a first reading of that ordinance.

The law is expected to reduce plastic bag litter and increase the use of multiple use carrying bags in this city of 305,215 on the Gulf of Mexico. City staffers say it also will expand the market for recycling plastic bags.

Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez said in January that the "Bring Your Own Bag" era has begun in Corpus Christi. "It's easy to do once you get in the habit," she said.

Retailers have been encouraged to discontinue the use of single-use bags, but photos show they still get blown around this windy city's streets and litter Corpus Christi Bay.

After working with local legislators and businesses to try and reduce plastic bag litter for years without success, the Coastal Bend Chapter of the nonprofit group Surfrider Foundation supports the proposed ordinance.

"Following the success of the Corpus Christi's new single-stream curbside recycling program, the bag fee is the next logical step in making our community more sustainable and a better place in which to live," Surfrider Foundation says.

If approved by City Council, the ordinance will require that all retailers distributing plastic bags register annually via a city-managed database.

They would have to provide required signage at entry, exit and points of purchase.

There would be a process in place for "Hardship Variance or Alternative Compliance" and fines for violations.

City staff are still unsure whether customers would be charged per bag or per transaction. Convenience store owners object to a per transaction fee, saying that grocery stores far outpace them in the distribution of plastic bags, so a per-transaction fee would be unfair because they would have to pay as if they had used more bags.

The city is considering allowing individual businesses to choose which system to use.

Several other Texas cities have been experimenting with banning single-use shopping bags.

The Texas Retailers Association is suing the City of Austin over its ban of plastic bags that took effect March 1, claiming the ban violates the state's health and safety code.

The lawsuit claims that Texas' Health and Safety Code prohibits local governments from enacting laws that restrict or prohibit use of containers or packages like plastic bags.

"This has thrown a great deal of uncertainty in to what the state of the law is and that's the purpose of this lawsuit," Ronnie Volkening, president of the Texas Retailers Association told Fox News.

Brownsville was the first Texas city to ban plastic checkout bags as of January 2011. The ordinance has eliminated more than 350,000 bags per day, according to former Mayor Pat Ahumada.

Several Texas towns, including Fort Stockton and South Padre Island, have also approved bans on plastic bags.

The City of Dallas is being prompted to consider a ban on plastic bags by City Council member Dwaine Caraway, who in April handed Council a draft ordinance that targets any "single-use" bag, including plastic bags.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2013. All rights reserved.
Cover photo: Corpus Christi Marina. Photo by Jim Nix. Uploaded to Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) .