Austin pushes Bring Your Own Bag policy

WiG, AP reports

Austin, Texas, on March 1 started its ban on certain thin paper and plastic bags amid environmental concerns.

The Austin City Council approved the ordinance about a year ago, with city officials encouraging consumers to bring reusable bags to do their shopping.

Retailers, meanwhile, will be allowed to offer thicker plastic and paper bags with handles, which Austin officials consider reusable. Retailers will decide whether to charge for those bags.

Ban exemptions include dry-cleaning bags, newspaper delivery bags, some types of takeout food bags and bags used for fish, meat, poultry, produce, bulk goods and pharmaceuticals.

Businesses that do not comply could face a Class C misdemeanor punishable by daily fines of up to $2,000.

Some facts about thin, plastic bags from the Clean Air Council:

The Ocean Conservancy says plastic bags are the second-most common kind of waste found, at 1 out of 10 items picked up and tallied in an International Coastal Cleanup.

• Plastic bags do not biodegrade. Light breaks them down into smaller and smaller particles that contaminate the soil and water and are expensive and difficult to remove.

• Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled each year. Recycling one ton of plastic bags costs $4,000. The ton of recycled product can be sold for $32.

• When the particles from plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins such as PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans.

• The city of San Francisco determined that it costs 17 cents for them to handle each discarded bag.