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Austin-How goes the great grocery bag ban experiment?

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Was visiting Austin recently and saw a news segment that many folks are nearing wit's end over the bag ban. They claim they make more frequent trips to the grocery store because the weekly big haul of yesteryear is over; their carbon footprint is BIGGER now due to those trips; and they are getting FATTER and eating LESS HEALTHY. And what about all those secondary uses they had for those bags? They are buying bags! NON-RECYCLED bags.

How is it going for you?

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  1. Social engineering at its' worst. Took about six months to get used to the new routine of putting the bags back in the car after unloading. There were plenty of times where I had to load loose groceries in the car as I refused to buy another bag. On the retail end shoplifting is up because the thieves browse and load items into the reusable bags and stroll out the door during busy times as it appears their food has already been purchased. It's all good though. Gave the Mayor and Council a chance to pat themselves on the back...

    4 Replies
    1. re: Frankie_Candido

      What's the source for your assertion that shoplifting is up?

      1. re: Oliver Oyl

        Article in the Statesman around the time the ban kicked in is my best recollection. Pretty sure the comment was from an HEB spokesperson. They've always suffered from shrinkage (esp. the E.Riverside store) and the bag ban has made it worse for them or so they say.

        1. re: Frankie_Candido

          And of course shrinkage is a discreet term for shoplifting.

          1. re: Frankie_Candido

            Yes, it has been mentioned in the news several times. Leslie Sweet is the HEB spokesperson.

            HEB was initially against the originally proposed ban. But then they flipped their stance in FAVOR of the ban after the city agreed not to make an interim "charge for plastic bags" period.

            So what does HEB end up doing anyway? Charging for plastic bags - the same situation they originally opposed . And now they're suffering skrinkage/shoplifting.

            Good for them, I say. HEB is pretty much the only grocer that doesn't offer free bags. Walmart charges a mere $.10 (much less than HEB). Wake UP HEB.

            -sw

      2. I know a guy whose house backs up to a creek. Routinely he has to clean all the plastic grocery bags out of the creek, and there are a lot. He said that already the level has dropped dramatically. It just takes a bit of getting used to. I too, have forgotten my bags many times. You can buy a heavy duty HEB plastic bag that holds about 3 times as much as the old disposable plastic bags for a quarter. It's not that big of a deal.

        As for blaming the bag ban on people getting fatter, give me a break.

        4 Replies
        1. re: TroyTempest

          I'm not sure why those bags end up in creeks and trees? I've seen them before here, sure, but not like it's an epidemic. Do people just throw them out the windows when they are done? I am truly baffled. I know he must have soda cans and what not in his creek also. That's the type of litter I typically see.

          1. re: Lambowner

            because people pitch them, not caring where they end up -- wind and rain put them in trees and bodies of water.

            It's kind of nice to visit Europe and see *no* bags anywhere...granted, there's still cans and bottles, but they've all but eliminated one source of littering.

            One step at a time.

            1. re: Lambowner

              They blow for very long distances with very little wind!

              1. re: pikeman

                And they really do a (bad) number on the fish.

          2. It's going great. Already had a ton of reusable bags because every event ever seems to include free totes. Now much better at using them. Less garbage stuck in trees everywhere. No fatter than before. Thumbs up!

            1. My daughter lives there and likes it quite a bit. Not difficult at all. The key is to have two sets of reusable bags. Much less likely to go to the store with your bags at home that way.

              1. the guy who wrote to the paper about the bag ban making him fatter and forcing his family to eat out is an idiot.

                i'm proud of austin for taking this step and wish more people would get on board. from time to time, i might forget a bag, especially during an impromptu trip, but appreciate places like Central Market continuing to offer paper bags with handles at no cost. i keep those for gift wrapping and toting things around or just recycle them.

                It seems MT market is blatantly disregarding the ban.

                4 Replies
                1. re: topodrinko

                  MT market and a few Home Depots had a large inventory of bags and the city has allowed them to deplete their back stock.

                  1. re: whoalilponie

                    I can totally see that, because there were no other Home Depots anywhere that could have used those bags for them.

                  2. re: topodrinko

                    So paper bags are within the ordinance? Makes sense. The move to plastic was for cost reasons, but paper makes more sense and biodegrades.

                    1. re: Lambowner

                      Brilliant - export the pollution downstream from the paper plants. NIMBY works every time.

                  3. I think most people are over the initial complaining. I too forget the bags and load loose groceries in to my car. Not a huge deal. Most of the places I shop, including Target, still use paper bags so I use those at home for my recycling. I'm not fat or less healthy because of no plastic bags at stores. That cracks me up.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chispa_c

                      I always preferred the paper and still ask for it if they have it. It is still environmentally sound and carries more groceries. I would probably shop at those places that use paper if I lived in Austin. But to be fair to visitors to ATX, I've heard more than one surprised rant from people who go and aren't aware of the ban. I don't suppose that will cut down on tourists, though. :)

                    2. I'm looking for a good project to use about 100+ (and growing) of those red HEB bags that cost $.25./each. Something that showcases how much plastic I haven't saved.

                      Lets not forget there is still a very credible lawsuit pending. The ban was clearly against the Texas Constitution and should never have been enacted in the first place. My guess is they will ammend the constitution to accommodate the bag ban.

                      Sunset Valley also just started their own bag ban as well.

                      -sw

                      28 Replies
                      1. re: sqwertz

                        "I'm looking for a good project to use about 100+ (and growing) of those red HEB bags that cost $.25./each."

                        They aren't in a landfill, are they?

                        1. re: TroyTempest

                          They will be. 100 of those bags is about 600 of those cheaper plastic bags. Guess they didn't figure on that, eh?

                          1. re: sqwertz

                            They will only be in a landfill if you put them there. They don't have to.

                            No, they didn't figure that people would buy the reusable bags to throw them away. My bet is that you are one of the few.

                            1. re: TroyTempest

                              Plastic lives on long after we die, paper does not. So your point? Someone, someday, will throw them away. I vote for a return to paper bags. Kill trees, then replant. What's hard about that? Our ancestor's sustainable products. Plastics are both the ease and bane of our existence.

                              1. re: Lambowner

                                I'd use paper if HEB offers them. But they don't.

                                1. re: Lambowner

                                  My point, which i'm sure you get, but you just want to be argumentative is this. Even though sqwertz keeps buying the HEB plastic bags, it doesn't mean that they have to end up in a landfill. And, to your point, yes, they are plastic, but are of higher quality than what the grocery stores used to give out, and will be used by most people many times before they end up in a landfill or recycled.
                                  The majority of customers are not going to buy the plastic bag, only to throw it out.

                                  1. re: TroyTempest

                                    I have no intention or interest in argument. Just pointing out the obvious.

                                    1. re: TroyTempest

                                      They will all eventually end up in the landfill. Yours, mine... every single one that they manufactured.

                                  2. re: TroyTempest

                                    There comes a point where you can be deemed a hoarder, or get rid of them. I've already stated why it's impractical for me to reuse them at the stores. And why I have to keep buying them. Sorry if that doesn't make sense to you. It's kinda hard for people who drive to put themselves into the shoes of somebody who doesn't.

                                    1. re: sqwertz

                                      I read this thread several times, but I don't see where you state why you can't bring a recyclable bag to the store. I am just curious for the reason? The plastic bags are not that easy to handle balance-wise, for me. I have one recyclable bag that rolls up to fit in my pocket, so it's not a matter of taking up too much space. Why wouldn't that be a better option? (I'm truly asking, not being snarky.)

                                      I see further down that you don't drive. As I said, I have a recyclable bag that folds up to an extremely small size, but I guess maybe that wouldn't carry all your groceries.

                                      1. re: txgrl99

                                        What brand is the fold up bag you have?

                              2. re: sqwertz

                                Maybe you could go stand outside the the HEB and give them to people that forgot theirs, and think that shelling out .25 is a really large pain. You'd meet some people, and they would be appreciative of it. I'd say that is a win-win.

                                1. re: sqwertz

                                  I sure hope they don't amend the state constitution to accommodate Austin's tilting at windmills. But it's been done hundreds of times before resulting now in the longest constitution in the nation. Sigh.

                                  1. re: sqwertz

                                    The law does nothing to address those that deliberately avoid reusing bags - you can't legislate against stubbornness. You might try donating your collection to a food bank.

                                    1. re: Alan Sudo

                                      It's not stubborness. I don't drive. And I'll be damned if I'm going to carry around grocery bags all day long on the chance that I may stop at the grocery store before heading home.

                                      They probably will end up at a food pantry (not the food bank - they DO NOT need any more plastic or cloth bags there)

                                      -sw

                                      1. re: sqwertz

                                        I've got a few bags that fold up really small. I keep them tucked in my purse. Of course, if you're a man, that probably won't work :)

                                        1. re: Hobbert

                                          hubby keeps a couple of those small bags tucked into the door pocket in his car.

                                    2. re: sqwertz

                                      As a lawyer I'm curious. Pray tell what provision of the Texas Constitution mentions, directly or indirectly, grocery bags? Is there really a legitimate argument that there is some violation? Is so, please tell me what section of the Constitution is implicated?

                                      1. re: Mike C. Miller

                                        Didn't you know? Those guys at the Alamo were fighting for their right to use plastic bags.

                                        1. re: Mike C. Miller

                                          Health & Safety Code. Constitution is not mentioned in this article.

                                          http://www.statesman.com/news/news/lo...

                                        2. re: sqwertz

                                          It hyas just been reported that the Texas Retailers Association has dropped the lawsuit regarding the bag ban.

                                          I smell a rat. I smell politics. Who paid who? And what were the terms of the deal?

                                          If something is obviously against the law, then it shouldn't be up to private citizens to file suit to enforce the laws. The Texas Attorney General office should be the one to put a stop to it without any lawsuit.

                                          1. re: sqwertz

                                            because the AG has enough time, staff, and money to go through every law passed in every town, city, and county in the state?

                                            Democracy means that the people get involved.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              When it's pointed out to them, yes. Democracy doesn't mean that The People enforce the laws, and at their own expense.

                                              -sw

                                              1. re: sqwertz

                                                yeah, never mind that whole "of the people, for the people, by the the people" crap. Just send it on to Big Government -- they'll help.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  You're welcome to your own interpretation of that. As well as the roles and responsibilities of the Attorney General's office.

                                                  -sw

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                May I just add, that this is the purpose of the AG's office? What they are paid for with our tax dollars, and what we expect of them.

                                                1. re: Lambowner

                                                  as above -- there is no way any state has the human or fiscal capital to wade through every ordinance passed in every jurisdiction in the state.

                                                  At some point, someone has to raise a hand and say "hey, this sucks!"

                                              3. re: sqwertz

                                                Probably because they were going to get their ass kicked and they didn't want to throw good money after bad.

                                            2. This is the trashiest locale I've lived in or frequented (just try kayaking town lake, for example, and lap all that litter scenery up). I live in north central austin and it's gross how much litter is everywhere. I too have noticed a decline at least in the bags blowing around all over and in the flood creeks near our house. For that benefit alone, my carrying around reuse bags in my cars all the time, just in case, is warranted and stupid easy. And heaven friggin' forbid I have to pay a dime or two for an overly large haul. I hope the ban doesn't give me diabetes and its costs reduce my taco intake by one per year. utterly ridiculous !!

                                              1. Eh, I just drive an extra 2 miles and shop in Westlake Hills. It's not in Austin proper, so the ban doesn't apply. I'm not any less healthy or fatter, but I do burn a little more gas, so the environmental benefit is spurious.
                                                Also, the grocery stores near me no longer accept plastic for recycling, so bags that otherwise wouldn't have ended up in a landfill (or blowing away in the wind into a tree or creek) probably now do.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: willtryanythingonce

                                                  It sucks that some stores stopped collecting used bags. Most of the HEBs I have visited still take bags for recycling.

                                                  1. re: willtryanythingonce

                                                    At least at the Brothers Cleaners in my neighborhood, you can still drop off your plastic for recycling. They take everything, not just laundry bags.

                                                  2. nanny-state bs. at least at central market you can get the handled paper bags.

                                                    1. Another thing that comes to mind is the contamination of those reusable bags. The research on that is done and conclusive. Even if they are washable, do people wash them? Not likely most.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Lambowner

                                                        They will still put meat products in produce bags so that should cut down or eliminate contamination. . Plus I've always reused the disposal plastic bags and never washed them.

                                                      2. Look you bastards. Our entire civilization was reared on carrying shit. The very last few years of it, we had those stupid plastic bags that I always see (or saw) flying around all over. We have two hands, and you can cup things under your armpit. If your forget your green bags going in, use a cart and put it i those bags when you get to your car.

                                                        This is a bit tongue in cheek, but accurate.

                                                        I've always suspected that the invention of wine was caused by hunter-gatherers carrying fruit around in jars for awhile. We've had receptacles for tens of thousands of years, I think we can get over this hurdle. And if anybody wants to discuss it, meet me on the track at Lamar Middle School.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: rudeboy

                                                          I'll race you around the Lamar -Congress loop on Town Lake...

                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                            As soon as the temperature get's below 65 as a high...........but I might have some shrinkage!

                                                          2. re: rudeboy

                                                            Yeah, I'll just tuck a few pork butts and a jug of Clamato under my armpits while I walk home the 2.2 miles (there's that assumption that everyone drives everywhere they go).

                                                            -sw

                                                            1. re: sqwertz

                                                              Well, it is a fair assumption. However, a few pork butts and a jug of Clamoto indicates a more deeper-level situation. Not to make light of a transit-oriented conniption, but just to make light of the situation in general.

                                                              1. re: sqwertz

                                                                You may want to hang out at Sam's BBQ and ask for advice. I understand there are several people around there that have perfected the art of carrying large slabs of meat out of the grocery store without the use of grocery bags.

                                                            2. I just don't understand why this is such a big deal to some people. We used reusable bags already, so it wasn't much of a change for us. I have one of the HEB hefty plastic bags for meat only. I can't imagine how this would make you fatter or eat less healthy unless spending $1 to buy a reusable bag would be a huge problem for you (I've gotten 5 free ones just this past week with various purchases). I do wash mine periodically, because they get gross. It's unfortunate HEB does not recycle plastic anymore, but my dry cleaners still takes plastic, so I take everything there.

                                                              I used to work in waste management, and before I did, I really had no idea how much trash exists on this planet that is never going away (much less just our city). There is no room for it. It literally kept me up at night. So I feel like any step, no matter how small, in eliminating some of that waste can only be a good thing.

                                                              I can imagine this could be a bit challenging if you didn't drive, though. I do have a super small bag that I roll up and put in my purse or pocket, but I can see not wanting to carry it in your pocket 24/7 if you didn't carry a purse. : )

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: txgrl99

                                                                Not sure if all HEBs stopped recycling. Saw a bin for recycling plastic bags at the Hancock (41st st.) store yesterday!!

                                                                1. re: txgrl99

                                                                  So they can have something to bitch about other than the fact that they are unhappy with them self or with their own life.

                                                                2. Has Texas not heard of cloth bags? I know, they've only been around for a few decades, but..... they seem to work really well for us up here in the north.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                    We're in Brazil right now and it might as well be Texas. It seems they want to put each item in its own plastic bag. They look shocked when I just put them in my handbag or carry them in our hands. 'Course they have a thriving petroleum industry also.

                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                      I use mostly cloth and I've got a few plastic ones I can wipe down for wet or icky items. It's really an eye opener to see how many plastic bags we waste. Like c oliver says, so many baggers just put 2 or 3 items in a bag and many look surprised when I decline a bag altogether- some things I just tuck in my purse or throw in another bag with items from another store. One thing I need to work on is bringing reusable bags to stores other than the grocery store.

                                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                                        The latter is true for me also. Seattle charges a nickel for a paper bag. A year ago I bought some clothes at Nordstrom while visiting and paid the nickel cause I didn't know. Paying that small amount is just a good reminder.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          Yep. 5¢ isn't much but it's enough to give me pause about not using reusable bags.

                                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                                            Exactly. I have no idea why anyone cries foul over it.

                                                                    2. Going great - looking forward to finally using my Trader Joe's reusable bags at a Trader Joe's here in Austin.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: saticoy

                                                                        Those are very cool bags!

                                                                      2. I'm entirely OK with it. I have a few reusable bags in my trunk and the wife has a wad in hers. It is zero problem or inconvenience to use them. And we got most of 'em for free.

                                                                        IMO this is a non-issue. I even see reusable bags in Williamson County where anything like this is regarded as the work of the devil.

                                                                        1. I love it. Hated it at first but saw the logic in not having a million bags to throw away. Envirosax really changed it for me- easy to scrunch up and always keep in my purse and they clean easily. I'm not a fan of the big reusable bags that you can't keep on you and don't wash well.