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Posted: 9:50 a.m. Friday, Aug. 30, 2013

Letter writer says bag ban has caused family to gain weight 

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Letter to the editor about bag ban
This letter to the editor from Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, claimed that the plastic bag ban has caused one Austin man's family to gain weight.

By Addie Broyles

Austin's ban on single-use plastic bags has, without a doubt, affected everyone in both expected and unexpected ways, but is the ban causing residents to gain weight?

That's what one Austinite claimed in a letter to the editor this morning:

I would love an update from the city on the Austin bag ban. The effect on my family is notable — we have all gained weight due to the inability to do large shopping trips and now tend to eat out more. We have also increased our carbon footprint due to more frequent smaller grocery trips. Reverse this stupid ban.

Eric Singer
Austin

I posted a picture of this letter on Twitter this morning, and for the most part, the general reaction seems to be something along the lines of: "You're joking, right?"

Julie Gillis says that she appreciates the bag ban but that when you use various modes of public and private transportation, it's hard to make sure you have reusable bags with you at all times.

Several people pointed out that the logic behind Singer's argument just doesn't make sense. "How does bag material limit large shopping trips? Reusable bags hold MORE," tweeted Kristin Sheppard. Others pointed out that $5 worth of reusable bags costs less than one meal out at a restaurant,

On the Instagram threadbluebonnetbaker pointed out that reusable bags hold more groceries than the single-use bags, so there's no sense in arguing that the lack of throwaway bags are to blame for shopping less frequently.

Over on Facebook, Christina Terriquez said that it boiled down the personal responsibility: "Investing in 10 or 20, or even more reusable bags is way less expensive than eating out all the time, so what's preventing him from doing large shopping trips? As for more trips, plan your trips around other errands, go after work, or just before you pick up the kids from practice, or even after a movie. Doesn't anyone have any sense of personal responsibility anymore? He mentions his family, so I'm assuming he has kids, what kind of example is this to set for his kids?"

But Drew Miller said that he didn't think the letter was ridiculous. "There are always unintended consequences," he posted.

In general, I think the idea that someone is trying to blame a family's weight gain on the ban on flimsy plastic bags is misguided if I'm being nice, absurd if I'm not. However, Miller's comment about the ban's unintended consequences is true. Grocers are reporting higher rates of theft and some supermarkets on the fringe of Austin are seeing significant drops in revenue as customers go elsewhere to get their groceries in the single-use bags.

It's worth noting that some stores, including MT Supermarket in North Austin, are blatantly disregarding the ban and giving away the flimsy plastic bags. Other stores, such as Central Market and Whole Foods, are legally giving away reusable paper bags. And all around Austin, if you really, really want your plastic bags, H-E-B charges $1 for the so-called emergency option, which will buy all the plastic bags you need to accommodate your purchase.

We've had the ban in place for almost six months now (here is a report of how thing were going at three months in), and I've gotten used to keeping bags in my car, washing them every once in a while and putting them back in my car after we've unloaded the groceries. It takes a little longer to pack the bags at the check out stand, but that just gives me more time to surreptitiously interview the cashier and bagger about how the ban is going.

Not a single one of them has complained.

What unexpected effects are you experiencing because of the bag ban?

Addie Broyles

About Addie Broyles

Hailing from the Ozarks, Addie Broyles expanded her cooking (and eating) skills on the West Coast and Spain before settling in Austin, where she writes about food for the Austin American-Statesman.

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