Reduce Single Use Checkout Bags in Texas

Reduce Single Use Checkout Bags in Texas

131 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
Petition to
Texas House of Representatives Committee on Environmental Regulation and

Why this petition matters

Started by Alicia Ximenez

It’s no question that plastic pollution plagues our state. We preach: “Don’t Mess With Texas,” but continue to build factories that disrupt and harm the environment and we fail to pass laws to protect it. Because of Laredo’s move for a plastic bag ban, it has caused a ripple effect throughout the state. The Texas Supreme Court deemed it illegal due to the Texas Waste Disposal Act. Cities like Austin, Corpus Christi, and Brownsville are now being forced to end their plastic bag bans, which was already helping the environment and all of its industries greatly.

According to the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Texas residents use over 9 billion single-use plastic bags each year, estimating about 335 bags per person, 25 million each day. Over 95% of these bags end up in landfills and become pollution and litter. The litter gets clogged in pipes and drains everywhere and this takes resources and government employees to repair. These polyethylenebags cannot be recycled, they clog the machinery at the recycling plant and cause the entire line to shut down, which costs thousands of dollars in repairs and wages. This causes a financial burden to taxpayers, the mean cost is $18 million in taxes.

Before New York implemented a Bag Waste Reduction Act, they estimated a yearly use of 23 billion bags statewide. This act prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags by any person required to collect New York State Sales Tax and it has significantly reduced the number of polyethylene single-use bags in New York. There are certain bags that are exempt, such as food service bags to separate raw meat and seafood from other food itemsto avoid contamination, as well as pharmacy prescription bags and trash bags, all within the [grounds] of the Texas Waste Disposal Act. 

They started a hashtag to promote participation in this act. #BYOBagNY helped get the word out to millions of people across every social media platform and get New Yorkers on board to start helping the environment more. The Act didn’t just stop at grocery stores, any establishment that collected state sales tax was required to follow the law. Paper bags are still available, but the less waste, the better. Selling these bags and reusable cloth bags is always an option but not required by businesses so many New Yorkers carry a bag with them when they can. It’s very doable and every Texan is more than capable. The only burden retailers are facing is the cost of paper bags, which again is not required. 

Every H-E-B supermarket in Austin had a policy in place where instead of polyethylene single-use plastic bags, which are harmful to the environment, they sold reusable bags made from recycled plastic for a small fee, incentivizing people to reuse them. They also had paper bags for a small fee, which are still single use, but less of a strain on the environment. The company pays 3-7 cents per polyethylenesingle-use bag so this act saved them millions of dollars each year. Overall, 99.5% of H-E-B customers in Austin made the switch to reusable bags in the first 6 months of the ban, reducing an average of 200 million single-use plastic bags each year (with the exception of designated bags for safe food handling and trash bags). The city saw little to no plastic bags in landfill after the ban was placed, and the environment—which is important for tourism and public health— was cleaner, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, something I’m sure the state would be very interested in.

PE single-use plastic bags can ruin one of the biggest industries in Texas: agriculture, and this poses a big threat to the economy, as well as public health due to contamination. Patches of fruits and vegetables can become contaminated, causing a significant loss to the farmer and if left unchecked, can cause an outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli), listeria, and other types of food borne illnesses that may lead to death. The cotton industry suffers as well, since a single plastic bag can contaminate an entire bale of cotton, resulting in reduced quality of cotton, another loss for another farmer, more time and money spent in the agricultural industry, more strain on the economy. 

The polyethylene plastic bags pose a huge risk to land and marine environments as well as the life they hold. Animals including domestic animals, cattle, and wildlife are affected by plastic bags as well. They mistake it for a food or fun and who are we to put these bags in their habitat? The laws against littering are not enough to stop it. We need to stop it from the source. This crisis can only get worse.

The Gulf Coast will suffer if this ban is removed permanently. They are suffering enough now with the partnership with ExxonMobil and Saudi Basic Industries Corp building a plastic plant right on the coastline. Billions of micro plastics will fall into the ocean, so the least the state could do is help significantly reduce one kind of plastic. The gulf coast region will also have effects on public health, because such plastics are left in the water and this is the water the public drinks. The main concern of the Texas Waste Disposal Act is the public health, and these bags pose a threat to it, including domestic animals and wildlife.

Not to mention the fishing industry in Texas, which is an economic powerhouse that creates thousands of jobs and involves millions of commercial and recreational participants, billion of dollars in retail sales, and at least a billion dollars in salaries and wages. Plastic bags harm the fishing industry in significant ways such as damage to boats due to bags sucked in the engines, entangled fish or fish who ingest these plastics as they mistook them for food,—which is a risk to overall public health as this contaminates the entire school of fish— and an overall sore for eyes for the tourism industry. There was even an instance where a dying whale washed up to shore and defecated over 17 pounds worth of plastic garbage in Thailand. It was a horrific site and it’s not the only instance.

It may not all be in Texas, but this pollution is still a worldly pandemic that needs to be made more aware, and us Texans can make a change. 
Many cities functioned under this program and so can the rest of the state. The proposal is not to remove plastic bags across the board, which violates the Texas Waste Disposal Act; it is the first step to remove pollution from our environment. 

131 have signed. Let’s get to 200!