A bill up for consideration in the Texas Legislature this session would mandate some retail outlets across the state to establish recycling programs for the plastic bags they hand out to customers.
Senate Bill 908, authored by Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), would require larger retail stores to offer bag recycling. It would not apply to Mom and Pop operations, but is aimed at stores like Wal-Mart and H-E-B.
The law would only apply to stores that do more than $5 million in annual sales, have more than 51 employees, and more than 20,000 square feet of retail space.
At a hearing on the bill in the Senate Natural Resources Committee yesterday, environmental groups registered their opposition to the bill. Stacy Guidry, from Texas Campaign for the Environment, took issue with the provision of the bill that would pre-empt local governments who want to enact their own bag control ordinances.
"That pre-emption provision could take away local government control," Guidry said.
Environmental groups and some committee members wondered whether the real intent of the bill was to prevent local ordinances that would ban plastic bags outright. Right now, three Texas cities - South Padre Island, Fort Stockton and Brownsville - have city-wide bans on plastic bags.
Fraser said those bans would not be affected, nor would any that were enacted before the bill takes effect in January 2012.
Retail associations and oil companies voiced their support for SB 908 at the hearing Tuesday. An similar bill passed the Senate in 2009, but died in the House.
The Natural Resources Committee voted 6 to 1 yesterday to move the bill out of committee.
The effort comes as plastic bags have come under increasing scrutiny in the past several years. Communities around the nation have banned them, in some cases.
The City of Austin flirted with an outright bag ban several years ago, and a new effort may be in the cards this year.