Paper or plastic? Austin's grocery bag ban begins March 1

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News

khou.com

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 9:15 PM

AUSTIN -- Get them while you can; soon, single-use plastic and paper bags will be a thing of the past in Austin. The bag ban ordinance goes into effect March 1.

On the University of Texas campus, the Young Conservatives of Texas are protesting the ban by passing out plastic bags.

"Going to fabric bags isn't a step towards progress," said James Lamey, recruitment director for the Young Conservatives of Texas. "It's a step towards collusion and arbitrating the purchase of a good, because you can't just have a reusable bag. You're going to have to purchase one from whatever grocery store you go to."

But their efforts were being met with opposition.

"It just doesn't make sense to me because they're saying that we're limiting freedom of choice, but you can use these bags if you want," said UT student Eric Nikolaides, who supports the ban. 

Across town, some shoppers at the HEB grocery store in the Hancock Center showed their support of the ban by bringing in their reusable bags.

"I want to do my part to help the environment," said Wayne Foster.

While others are using the day to stock up.

"I asked them to double bag everything today so I have extra bags," said Diane Janes.

HEB's employees are gearing up for the big switch. Produce bags are still allowed, but now there are meat packing bags in the stores. Displays are full of reusable bags, some as cheap as 25 cents. And the retailer even plans to pass out 400,000 free bags for the first three days of the ban.

There's even a backup plan for shoppers.

"As an option of last resort, if they forgot their bags at home and don't want to buy more reusable bags, they can request to use the emergency access fee for $1 per order and we can give them single-use paper and plastic bags if they absolutely need it," said HEB Director of Public Affairs Leslie Sweet.

Money from those sales will be used to for "free bag Fridays" once a month. And the paper and plastic will be kept out of sight people will hopefully keep plastic off their minds.

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