City Wide Plastic Bag Ban - San Antonio, Texas

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Cathy Bureau attended the city of San Antonio's Citizen's Advisory Committee meeting today for Environmental Policy. The city is considering a city-wide plastic bag ban. This might sound a bit off the wall, maybe even kind of militant, but when you discover why you might find this to be a good idea.


1. Big box stores use single purpose bags.  They are too thin for most trash can use, or too small.

2. They do not come from recycled plastic. Recycling plants produce gray bags (

3. Finding recycling opportunities is difficult. In San Antonio the city doesn't pick them up so you have to remember to take them to the big box store.

4.  Stores are wasteful. I usually use canvas bags but when I only need one or two items I'll say no bag. Whoops! Too late, bagged. I say no bag, please re-use it. They throw it away. It makes me want to make an intercom announcement:  CODE GREEEN! CODE GREEEEEEN!!!

5.  They don't make good packing material. Better packing material is fresh made popcorn.

6.  The end up in the world famous San Antonio River

7.  They become wildlife death traps. 

8.  They get caught in sewer traps.

9.  On windy days they are all over the streets.

10.  They don't pack well so my groceries are a mess.



The city of San Antonio has a city-wide policy in place to reduce the use of plastic bags. When I heard this at the Citizen's Advisory Committee meeting today for Environmental Policy I had a knee jerk response - what business does the city have in dictating what kind of bag a retailer can use?

I listened and learned. What I came to realize is that the result of  plastic bag use has increased the city's expenses in several departments including the San Antonio River Authority, Edwards Aquifer, the Public Works department, and the Health department.

Just for fun, I researched the ordinance I was given from the city of Brownsville and found several articles on the matter. It turns out that the city is having great results. Of course there is always a critic. This is what the NY Times had to say, then I share something from Brownsville, one year later.


1.  “Walmart is committed to reducing its plastic bag waste, but we would rather see voluntary programs to reduce plastic bag use” instead of stricter policies like Brownsville’s, said Daniel Morales, a company spokesman in Texas.

San Antonio has had a voluntary policy in place for over a year and according to the committee, there has been little to no change in plastic bag demand. The stores are not making much effort. They sell the bags for $0.99 -$1.99 at the grocery stores when they could offer paper bags with handles for free. Those are reusable. 

2.  "The policy, which took effect in January, has eliminated more than 350,000 bags per day, according to Mayor Pat Ahumada, who said in an e-mail that it has 'transformed our city from littered and dirty to a much cleaner city."

That's alot of bags for Brownsville, Texas with a population of 175,023, the 16th largest Texas city. Compare that to San Antonio, the 2nd largest city with 1.33 M population which if you use the same calculation of bags per person as Brownsville that is 1.99 bags per person or 2.65M bags per day! (demographics courtesy of Wikipedia.

3. "While buying groceries at the A&V Lopez supermarket this week, Rosie Orozco also spent 79 cents on something to put them in: a reusable bag emblazoned “Keep Texas Green.” “I have a whole bunch of these in my truck,” she said, noting that she often forgets to take them in when she shops" 

Wow! Really?  So we should have 2,646,700 bags floating in our sewers, killing our wildlife, and littering my lawn so shoppers don't have to bother to remember to bring their reusable bag?

Most appreciate that the city is cleaner. Some think the city is looking to make a few extra bucks. Maybe if they san in city council sub-committees for hours like I did they would see the impact it is having and see the numbers on how much it is costing the city to clean up, as well as the number of dead animals. It is being initiated by the city's Health Department, along with a few other programs to fit the San Antnio 2020 misison to improve health and well-being for all our citizens, no matter how many legs.



Two other Texas communities, Fort Stockton and South Padre Island, have also approved bans on plastic bags, which will take effect in September and January, respectively. Several large cities, including Laredo and El Paso, have previously considered bans, and even the small town of Poteet, south of San Antonio, plans to assess its bag-banning options.

[If the video is not displaying I apogoize. It is acting up on my side. It's a video of Brownsville one year later, found on youtube.]

Source: NY Times





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Debb Janes
Realtor, Camas, Washington EcoBroker
The Carl Group, LLC

Portland, across the bridge, is already no plastic bags. One day, we're sure to follow. I use the canvas bags from Whole Foods and New Seasons. Good for you - getting involved is smart on many levels.

March 03, 2012 04:23 PM
Scott Godzyk
One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents
Godzyk Real Estate Services

Good Evening Cathy, I missed your blogs the last week as i was away, the internet just too slow to load AR. What a great blog i get to read right off. I love your explanation and detail regarding the plastic bags and waste. Have a good night

March 03, 2012 05:15 PM
Jill Sackler
Long Island's South Shore Real Estate Agent
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. "Said and Done!"

I'm sure it's a great idea, however, I think I would miss the plastic bags a little because I do reuse them for garbage bags.

March 04, 2012 06:27 PM
Georgie Hunter
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers

This is an ecnouraging trend in our country.  Maui county banned them about a year ago and it's been a really good thing.  Grocery stores are now implementing really nice paper bags with handles.  And of course a lot of people learn to take their own bags with them when they go shopping... just keep a bunch in the back seat of the car all the time.

Even if your local laws don't mandate this, it's nice to start doing it anyway (bringing your own bags).  There are some really nice shopping bags to be had.

March 07, 2012 02:12 PM
Anonymous #16
Jimmie Napper

I love how you are getting the word out and education people on the effects of plastic bags on our environment. I myself have several reusualbe bags I carry in my car for us and have some that roll up and easily fit into the palm of my hand that are handy to carry in my purse. 

I would like to see one of the large retailers voluntarily pull the single use bags from their stores and pass on the savings they will have in not suppling these bags to the consumer, even thought it is a small savings it would add up over time in more ways then one. That could be a very marketable publicity campaign for a store and hopefully others would follow.  

April 24, 2013 09:38 AM
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