Dallas Carryout Bag Ordinance Starts on New Year’s Day 2015
Dec 05, 2014 01:22AM
By Kevin Lefebvre
A new city of Dallas carryout bag ordinance (GreenDallas.net/carryout-bag-ordinance), designed to help reduce litter in our community through elevated awareness and stewardship of our natural resources, goes into effect on January 1, 2015. The law is intended to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags to carry goods from stores and other locations.
Litter presents substantial challenges and costs to businesses and government to manage, and it has been shown to reduce property values. In 2008-2009, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) funded a series of studies with financial support from Philip Morris USA that focused on littering behavior across the United States (kab.org/research09).
The bottom line is that most of the items become litter by someone’s deliberate action. It isn’t an accident; it is a deliberate, conscious decision that costs Americans about $11.5 billion annually (per the KAB report) and Dallas residents nearly $4 million to clean litter from medians, lakes and streams and public spaces. We now have an ordinance that bans the thinnest and weakest of carryout bags and aims to help us as consumers make better choices to reduce the amount of materials that can end up as litter in our communities.
Dallas retailers and restaurants are preparing for the change as it impacts their operations. If we shop or dine in Dallas, every store and every restaurant will change the way we take away items. If we want a bag from these locations to take our items home, we will see these changes firsthand. If we need one from the local retailer or restaurant, they can offer a single-use bag, a reusable bag (either for sale or not), or a carryout bag that is exempt from the single-use bag definition. Some stores may also decide to no longer offer bags.
If we get a single-use bag, the retailer will assess a five-cent environmental fee per bag. Ninety percent of that fee will go to the city for litter abatement and education programs, and 10 percent stays with the retailer to offset administrative costs. City leaders realize that some of us want these bags and use them for other things, like trash or pet waste collection.
If we get a reusable bag (sold or not) we will not have to pay the environmental fee, but the retailer may charge us to offset the cost of the bag. Some stores already run with that model; we pay for a bag if we need one. Having a reusable bag, whether paper or plastic, means we can reuse that bag again.
At a restaurant, they can give usa recyclable paper bag to take our order away or they can provide a single-use plastic bag and assess the five-cent environmental fee. For something that’s particularly liquidy, like a salad with dressing on it or a container of gravy or soup, the ordinance allows for those to be placed in a plastic bag for moisture protection without the five-cent fee.
Kevin Lefebvre, MS, is the senior environmental coordinator in the city of Dallas Office of Environmental Quality over Sustainability, Outreach and Training. He can be reached at [email protected].