Austin
2:15 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Willie Nelson (or His Statue, At Least) Joins Austin Bag Campaign

Correction: The City of Austin disputes the expense of social media outreach in its reusable bag campaign. See the update below for more. 

Austin’s plastic bag ban goes into effect in eight days, and city officials are pulling in a celebrity endorsement for their campaign: Willie Nelson.

Or, his statue at least. 

"One bag just like the one Willie Nelson is holding literally can replace hundreds … six hundred or so … thin plastic bags that you see today,” city council member Mike Martinez said at a press conference in front of the bronze Nelson statue outside the ACL Live theater downtown.

Starting March 1, businesses cannot provide plastic bags to their customers at check-outs. Businesses can offer more durable plastic bags or fabric reusable bags at a charge. City officials and advocates of the plastic bag ban campaign held the event today as a part of the city's $850,000 education campaign.

That figure, paid to Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing, has caused something of a stir, attracting the attention of KVUE, the Austin American-Statesman and many others. Today, KUT News received an email from austinbagban.com. On its Facebook page, it writes, “If the City of Austin and Sherry Matthews Advertising are spending $90,000 of your money on social media for their "Bring It Austin" plastic bag education campaign, why do I have this Facebook page and not them?”

Update: The City of Austin says that figure’s incorrect. Out of the marketing budget ,“we have $64,900 slated for the design and development of a website in English and Spanish,” writes Public Information Specialist Lauren B. Hammond. “And we have $8,200 budgeted for social media efforts.”

Christened “Bring It Austin,” the official campaign features landmarks like the Nelson statue and the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Auditorium Shores toting a reusable bag.  Eco-friendly bicyclists will also go around Austin today through Saturday handing out free reusable bags. 

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said efforts to curtail plastic bag use in Austin started years ago – such as installing bag recycling containers at area supermarkets.

"But, it was not enough, frankly," Leffingwell said. 

Austin is one of few major cities to implement a city-wide ban on plastic bag and committed to cut 90 percent of the landfill waste by 2040 or sooner, according to Austin Resource Recovery

Here’s the “Bring it Austin” commercial you’ll start seeing a lot more of in the coming days: