Would You Like To See Plastic Bags Banned?

Kroger on 11th st in the Heights Plastic bag ban prosposal for Houston may mean plastic become obsolete.
Banning plastic bags was presented at a recent city council budget meeting. Council Member Ed Gonzalez suggested it would save Houston thousands of dollars in clean up fees. The question is would Houstonians embrace this idea?

At a Kroger Store in the Heights, Mitzie Scott is watching as her groceries are packed. All her items fit neatly into her two reusable bags. So the idea of banning plastic bags in Houston is a no brainer for her.  

"I think it’s a great idea. I don’t know why we didn’t do it before. It’s just not necessary and every time I see one hanging in a tree I think how sad and there are other ways to do it."

Jody Wellner is leaving the store with a shopping cart full of plastic bags. When I mention the idea of banning the very thing she’s wheeling out of the store, she sheepishly says she hadn’t planned to stop at the store.

"I think it’s beneficial not to use the plastic bags. But then you don’t always know you’re going to the store, so you don’t always have bags with you. I think it has pros and cons."

But not everyone seems to be on board with this idea. Victor Charles visibly bristles at the mention of banning them.

"I would probably ignore it because it’s ridiculous. Everything’s plastic today. Why don’t they outlaw the plastic items on a car while they’re at it? I mean, where do they stop, take my pen from me too?"

Mitzie Scott
Mitzie Scott with her re-usable grocery bags
at Kroger in the Heights

Granted banning plastic bags may sound like lunacy to some people. But there are already a number of bans in Californian cities including San Francisco and L.A. In our own Texas, Brownsville and South Padre Island have banned them, with Austin about to follow suit.

Brownsville’s ban has been in effect for nearly eighteen months and the city’s Public Health Director Arturo Rodriguez says it’s been a big success.

"In a recent survey conducted by a not for profit group here locally, found that a lot of our citizens are saying they have noticed a decrease in single use plastic litter and they’ve been very supportive of the ordinance."

To wean Brownsville residents off the idea of plastic bags, there was a year-long non-mandatory phasing in process. Rodriguez says that was critical to the bans success. The major stumbling block they had to overcome was people remembering their reusable bags. Back at the Kroger store Mitzie Scott seems to have no difficulty remembering hers.  

"When I go home, I unload my groceries. Next time I go out, I just put them in the back of the car. They’re always there ready to go."

While Houston has the example of Brownsville to look to this idea is in the very early stages. Council Member Ed Gonzalez says City Council is still figuring out if this is mostly a littering problem. But he says to move on this a conversation will need to be had with stake holders first.

"To those that produce the bags, to consumers, to environmental activists to have a discussion to say what works for our city."

Gonzalez hopes this discussion will lead to some positive action to rid our streets and Bayous of litter. Particularly those plastic bags!    

Bio photo of Edel Howlin

Edel Howlin

Producer, Houston Matters

Edel is a producer on Houston Matters and reporter for PBS’s Newshour Weekend...