So what’s changed since the proposal was last floated?
ARR director Bob Gedert initially discussed a temporary surcharge – either 10 cents a bag, or a dollar per transaction – to fund the initial, educational phase of the ordinance.
But Gedert raised the surcharge proposal only to take it off the table moments later. Citing implementation challenges, he ultimately recommended against the measure, a move Mayor Lee Leffingwell supported. Leffingwell said no fees in the interim period would provide a “safe harbor” for customers, and ensure “people are not left trying to carry 20 cans of peas out in their arms.”
Leffingwell also questioned Gedert on how the original resolution to bag plastic bags turned into a blanket ban on disposable bags, including paper bags. He replied that paper bags can be expensive for retailers to use exclusively.
The proposal keeps the same phases of transition from single-use plastic bags to recyclable and reusable bags: Phase I, lasting from March 2012 to February 28, 2013, will be devoted to educating consumers and retailers on environmental impact of using single-use plastic bags. Phase II begins March 1, 2013 and ends February 28, 2014. This phase would potentially impose a 10 cent fee for every plastic bag or a $1 for every transaction by the retailers, with the intention to slowly deviate from using plastic bags. Phase III, if all goes according to plan, will require city retailers to cease the use of single plastic bags altogether on March 1, 2014.
ARR has not been able to track down precise metrics of how many people use plastic bags today in Austin. One new proposal was to collaborate with the University of Texas to collect and crunch data on the topic.
You can view ARR’s presentation here. The ordinance returns to council for a public hearing and further discussion March 1.