Listen to Austin 360 Radio

A year later, what do you think of Austin’s bag ban?

Addie Broyles

I went grocery shopping today and didn’t think twice about using reusable bags.

I saw lots of other folks with canvas and plastic bags in their carts (nobody was reusing paper bags with handles, though), and I didn’t hear anybody complaining at the check-out stand about not having enough bags or that no one was offering to sack their groceries in single-use plastic bags for free.

It seems that in the past 12 months, we’ve all come to terms with Austin’s ban on single-use bags in our own ways. Some of us have fully (and happily) made the switch to using the same bags week after week, while others do so without so much cheer. Ahead of the ban, I heard plenty of folks promising that they’d take their shopping dollars elsewhere, where they could get the free flimsy plastic bags they as American shoppers felt like they deserved, but I have yet to meet or hear from a person who actually drives out of their way to buy groceries in a suburban store outside Austin’s jurisdiction.

In a story about the anniversary of the bag ban in today’s food section, I recall the moment that I realized I’d fully made the switch to a reusable bag shopper and outline some of the issues (and non-issues) we’ve seen pop up over the past year. Just this week, however, a state legislator asked Attorney General Greg Abbott to issue a formal opinion about whether bans like Austin’s violate state law.

I’m sure we’ll continue to hear from people, including legislators and lobbyists, who would rather use the single-use bags, but I’m not one of them.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t hear what those folks have to say. Today, I received a very thoughtful (and polite) letter from Lisa Sejnowski:

Among the MANY reasons I have to substantiate my position, the one I don’t see getting brought up relates to the term “single use,” which has been over-emphasized as a marketing ploy, as is pure nonsense. The plastic bags have far more “re-uses” than the brown paper bags! I have thrown away more of these so–called “reusable” bags (paper and thick plastic) after ONE USE since all this started than I ever have those handy plastic ones! And believe me, I do try to use cloth bags when I can. But still, how many paper bags do you need to accumulate? They’re bulky to store and their “re-uses” are limited. You can’t use them to put a wet swim suit in at the pool, wrap up & toss out smelly spoiled food, dirty diapers, kitty litter, dog poop (I don’t think I’d want to pick up that dog poop with those thinner newspaper bags), etc. After I exhaust my supply of “single-use” plastic bags, I’ll be having to buy Ziploc bags for these purposes.

Do you find yourself in the same situation that Lisa is in? Have you noticed fewer plastic bags littering your neighborhood? Would you like to see a statewide ban on bag bans? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or over on the Relish Austin Facebook page.

While I’ve got you thinking about bags, I wanted to share a quick little plug for local artist Aletha Saint-Romain, who uses watercolors to paint hummingbirds, flowers, rabbits, roosters and, my favorite, a mermaid sitting on top of a spool of thread and then prints the image onto teatowels and totes made with organic cotton. She sells both through her Etsy shop, Saint-Romain will be at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Artisans’ Festival on Saturday and Sunday, and the Zilker Garden Festival March 29 and 30.