Grocery Stores Have Begun Their Effort to Kill Dallas' Proposed Plastic Bag Ban

When City Council member Dwaine Caraway proposed a ban on single-use bags (paper and plastic) earlier this year, it seemed like another of the sweeping but ineffectual campaigns he fixes onto every so often. Sort of like the sagging-pants thing, except less entertaining. But then, in June, the measure sailed through committee en route to the full City Council. This time, unlike in 2008, it looks like a ban actually has a chance of passing.

That makes your local Kroger -- and Tom Thumb, and Walmart, and Target -- very nervous, which explains why representatives of the Texas Retailers Association spent a week camped out in front of two Dallas Kroger stores with a petition. It also explains why Kroger rep and TRA President Gary Huddleston was announcing at a press conference that they'd amassed more than 3,000 signatures that he'll be delivering to Mayor Mike Rawlings.

The thing is, retailers see a ban on single-use bags as a threat. Talking with Unfair Park this afternoon, Huddleston alluded to studies in Southern California showing bag bans decrease sales by 3 to 4 percent. People tend to buy less when their carrying capacity is limited to the reusable sacks they bring from home. Maybe some shoppers near the suburbs will migrate to stores outside Dallas. Bottom line, says Huddleston: "It will hurt our business."

Of course, having corporations whine about not making enough money is not a winning public relations strategy, which is why Huddleston prefers to focus on the cost that a bag ban will inflict on consumers, who will have to buy the reusable bags, and the employees of Hilex Poly, which operates three plastic-bag manufacturing plants in the Dallas area. Pass a bag ban, Huddleston says, and some of the company's several hundred local employees will be out of work.

And then there's the petition, which has six times as many signatures as the one launched online by Environment Texas.

"What we heard from customers is that they reuse plastic bags for picking up dog waste, wet bathing suits, taking their lunch to work," he said. "If those plastic bags go away then they have to go and buy them."

None of those arguments hold up very well if you believe that they cause serious harm to the environment. Huddleston doesn't.

"Litter is an issue, certainly. We don't want to contribute to the litter, but plastic bags are less than half of 1 percent [of the litter] in the street and in the waterways."

Better and more effective to focus on recycling the bags. There could be public awareness campaigns. The city could start accepting them in its blue recycling bins. They're really versatile material when you get creative. They can be turned back into more bags, sure, but Huddleston points out that they can also be transformed into things like patio decking and lawn furniture.

And be honest: Does anyone want to live in a world without lawn furniture?

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