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Poll: Most Austinites Support Alternative to Bag Ban

A recent poll of Austin residents indicates that an overwhelming majority—72 percent—would support an alternative to a proposed plastic bag ban, which if enacted, could prevent local retailers from providing plastic bags to customers when they check out.

More than 400 registered voters were contacted by phone between Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 by data collection company American Directions Group on behalf of the Texas Retailers Association (TRA) and the Progressive Bag Affiliates (PBA) of the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

Additional poll results:

  • 90 percent of Austin residents reuse plastic bags around their homes.
  • 91 percent of respondents are aware that plastic bags can be recycled at grocery stores and retailers like H-E-B, Wal-Mart, Target, Randall’s, JC Penney, Lowes and Walgreens.
  • 60 percent of residents know that plastic bags returned to retailers can be recycled into products like park benches, picnic tables, low-maintenance fence posts and decking, shopping carts, landscape timbers and other construction products.
  • Only 13 percent of Austinites are aware that plastic bags are made in Texas, and that most reusable bags are made overseas.

Ronnie Volkening, president and CEO of the TRA, said the survey results bolster the retailers’ position that the ban is not necessary.

“TRA members have worked diligently with their partners to develop the infrastructure for a market-based, closed loop solution to managing plastic bags,” Volkening said. “A bag ban would not significantly reduce the presence of plastic bags and other film in the marketplace, but it will seriously impair the ability to recycle and divert plastic from the landfill. A ban has serious unintended consequences; there are better solutions available.”

Instead of a bag ban, the TRA, the PBA and concerned citizens are proposing that the city of Austin pursue a solution centered around consumer education.

In 2008, an 18-month voluntary comprehensive pilot program in Austin based on the three R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) resulted in a 20 percent reduction in plastic bags being provided to consumers, a 74 percent increase in the amount of plastic being recycled through those stores and the sale of more than 907,000 reusable bags.

Today dozens of Austin grocers and other retailers have storefront recycling collection bins for plastic bags and wraps.

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