DALLAS — Beginning January 1, 2015, grocery stores and retailers in the City of Dallas will start charging customers five cents for every paper and plastic bag they use.
The City Council narrowly approved the partial ban on single-use carryout bags Wednesday morning.
The law bans the bags at all city facilities, events, or properties. In addition, it requires retailers to charge customers an environmental fee of five cents per bag. The proposal to give businesses the alternative to charge $1 per transaction was scrapped.
A bag ban had been discussed for more than a year, and was debated in Council chambers for most of the morning before the city secretary recorded the final 8-6 vote.
Council member Dwaine Caraway originally proposed charging 10 cents per bag, but said he compromised and reduced the "environmental fee" to a nickel.
In addition, Caraway originally wanted a full ban on all plastic bags in the city, but did not have the votes for it.
“Change is extremely hard, I understand that. But at some point, we have to put our foot down and clean up our environment,” Caraway said.
He and other supporters said the ordinance is a first step to cleaning up Dallas and making it a green city. But opponents said the ordinance will not impact the litter problem since it doesn't include other types of litter such as Styrofoam containers and aluminum cans.
The new ordinance does not include the following types of single-use carryout bags:
laundry, dry cleaning or garment bags
door hangers that solicitors use
packages of multiple bags used for garbage, pet waste or yard waste
recyclable paper bags provided by pharmacists or veterinarians with prescriptions in them
recyclable paper or plastic bags used by restaurants for take-out food
"We should not create ordinance we cannot enforce," said Council member Lee Kleinman.
Dallas will dedicate five employees and spend $250,000 this year to educate the public and the city's 20,000 retailers.
Council member Sheffie Kadane, who also opposed the ban, tried unsuccessfully to postpone the vote and send it back to committee for further discussion.
"It’s anti-business; it’s anti-choice," Council member Rick Callahan added.
Only two citizens spoke against the ordinance.
“If you think it’s a good idea in your district, let’s give it a try there. If that doesn’t work, let’s put it up to a public referendum,” said Al Taylor, a Dallas resident for 43 years.
Trey Taylor, who is not related and who spoke from a wheelchair, said the bag ban would discriminate against him.
“Social Security and food stamps doesn’t pay for my bags. I need an alternative,” he told Council members.
“The vote to approve a five cent plastic and paper grocery bag fee in Dallas is another example of environmental myths and junk science driving poor policy in the plastic bag debate," said Lee Califf, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents bag manufacturers. "This legislation applies to a product that is less than 0.5 percent of municipal waste in the United States and typically less than 1 percent of litter in studies conducted across the country/"
Caraway told WFAA-TV’s "Inside Texas Politics" on Sunday that he had the votes to pass the ordinance.
One of the big questions is whether the Texas Retailers Association or any other opponents will sue to prevent the city from implementing the new law. The TRA backed out of a suit after Austin adopted a similar plastic bag ordinance.
The TRA is currently asking the Texas attorney general's office for an opinion on whether bag bans are legal.
Another idea opponents floated is whether to collect signatures and put this issue up to a vote as a public referendum.
The bag ban goes into effect on the first day of 2015.