Editorial: The Alamo City is more than ready for a plastic bag ban

On Nov. 12 San Antonio City Council member Cris Medina will go public with a plastic bag ban proposal. This ban will likely be similar to Austin’s ban, which prohibits single-use plastic bags found in most grocery and convenience stores.

San Antonio spends over $1 million a year on cleaning up plastic bags. Although recycling has increased in the city, the use of bags has not declined.

The ban may be disconcerting for some as plastic bags are convenient for shopping but, since Waste Management does not accept the bags in recycling bins most them end up in landfills. H-E-B, Target, Walmart and Walgreens joined the city with “Change is in the Bag,” a program started in 2011 which initiated stores to have plastic bag recycling outside the stores. The program failed and ended in 2012 as a result.

San Antonio is ready to adopt reusable bags in daily shopping for the better of the city.

According to the San Antonio Citizen Environmental Advisory Committee, a ban will improve the community, help property values, protect wildlife and lower landfill costs.

Councilman Cris Medina, who is a sponsor of the proposal, plans to work with retailers on this ban. Ideally, stores like H-E-B and Walmart will offer non-plastic bag options like paper — an option available at Whole Foods and Sprouts — to forgetful shoppers.

There are 117 cities in the U.S that have plastic bans and fees. This includes Texas ordinances in Brownsville, Fort Stockton, South Padre Island, Laguna Vista, Austin, Freer, Sunset Valley, Kermit and Laredo.

While this policy has received mixed opinions from residents, it has cleaned up these cities for the better. One Walmart in Brownsville allows customers to purchase plastic bags for $1 and reusable bags for 25 cents by the ordinance, making reusable bags more accessible.

Residents have reported that bringing their own bags to the store, has made shopping more efficient and allowed them to be more conscious of what to decide to buy. The only groups concerned with a plastic bag ban are retailers like Walmart and H-E-B, concerned that this policy may limit an over-indulgent shopper.

Research published by the journal Environmental and Resource Economics found that a bag tax in Ireland decreased the use of plastic bags by 94 percent. The study also found that retailers took a favorable approach to the ban as it lowered the cost of bags purchased for checkout.

As the second most populous city in Texas and seventh in the United States, San Antonio should be a frontrunner for environmental consciousness. A change in the bags we use could be the next step at bettering San Antonio.