Poll shows most support an alternative to plastic bag ban

A recently conducted poll of Austin, Texas, residents indicates that 72 percent would support an alternative to the 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 by data collection company American Directions Group on behalf of the Texas Retailers Association (TRA) and the Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council.

Additional poll results:

•Ninety percent of Austin residents reuse plastic bags around their homes.

•Ninety-one percent of respondents are aware that plastic bags can be recycled at grocery stores and retailers like HEB, Wal-Mart, Target, Randall’s, JC Penney, Lowes and Walgreens.

•Sixty percent of residents know that plastic bags returned to retailers can be recycled into useful products, such as 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 Texas Retailers Association, said the survey results bolster retailers position.

“TRA members have worked diligently with their partners to develop the infrastructure for a market-based, closed loop solution to managing plastic bags. 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 Progressive Bag Affiliates and concerned citizens are proposing that the city of Austin pursue a solution centered around consumer education.

“Litter prevention is a goal we should all get behind but a ban will impede such efforts and does nothing to encourage folks to become good environmental stewards,” said Rudy Underwood, regional director of the American Chemistry Council. “Consumers value plastic bags. Instead of taking away the right to use them, we’d like to work with the Austin City Council on comprehensive litter solutions and on promoting the existing recycling infrastructure.”

In 2008, an 18-month 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.