An increasing number of lawmakers are seeking to curb consumer use of plastic bags through legislation.
Bills imposing a plastic bag fee have been proposed in many states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia and now Texas. Rep. Rafael Anchia hopes his bill mandating a 7—cent tax per plastic bag will decrease use in the Lone Star State. A portion of the tax would go back to the retailer, and the remainder would help fund city recycling programs.
“If people know that there’s an added cost to doing plastic, they’re either going to use paper, which is biodegradable, or they’re going to bring their own bag,” Anchia said.
If the bill doesn’t pass, Anchia has a Plan B: A second proposal, which has already been filed in the House, would require stores that supply plastic bags to also offer recycling bins and reusable shopping bags. In addition, the plastic bags would have to be stamped with a reminder to bring them back to the store.
Many large retailers are already doing the things the bill would require. Wal-Mart, for example, actually makes a profit from the combination of its recycling program and the sale of 50-cent reusable shopping bags.
Because there is not yet a state mandate, many Texas cities have been experimenting with programs to cut plastic bag use. In 2008, Austin began a voluntary program similar to the one outlined in Anchia’s backup bill. Data collected by the five participants: H-E-B, Randall’s, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Target, showed that in the first six months, plastic bag recycling increased 20 percent, the stores sold 443,227 reusable bags, and demand for the disposable plastic bags dropped 40 percent.
While individual cities have had success in their various programs, many hope a state law will uniform the policy.