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City Staff Will Propose Options For Possible Plastic Bag Ban

World Recources Institute Flickr stream
In April, San Antonio's Governance Committee will hear several options from city staff on a possible plastic bag ban.

City leaders are in the middle of talks about a possible ban on single-use plastic bags in the Alamo City. While the debate lingers on, city staff members have come up with several options they will present a council committee with in April.

Among the choices are:

  • An increased recycling campaign
  • A tax that retailers could charge customers at the checkout stand for using plastic bags
  • A refund that stores could give customers for bringing their reusable bags
  • An education effort by businesses to reduce bag use
  • A flat ban on single-use bags

Deputy City Manger Peter Zanoni relayed the options to Texas Public Radio, and said the Governance Committee, chaired by Mayor Julián Castro, will have the task of choosing one or more of the options to present to the full city council.
Of the options, Zanoni is least excited about the education campaign by the private sector. In February, District 7 Councilman Cris Medina convened a group of stakeholders to talk about a potential ban on bags, and included representatives from H-E-B, the Texas Retailers Association, the San Antonio River Authority, community leaders, and others, who all agreed that people need to be better informed about the discussion or action involving a ban.

Zanoni said the city tried an education campaign several years ago, and spent $400,000 doing it, but that it wasn't successful. However, he reported that recycling did increase at store kiosks where people could return their bags. But use of plastic bags, he said, did not decrease.

"The city is not too optimistic that an initiative like [the education effort] will have the results we're looking for," he said. "But the private sector believes if they do it alone, and kind of go one business at a time, that there may be better results."

Regardless of whether a flat out ban is chosen, Zanoni praised San Antonio for its efforts in the areas of environmental awareness.

Peer cities visit San Antonio to see the Solid Waste Department in action, he said, and the city has a recycling goal of 60 percent by the year 2025.

Once the committee hears the options before them, they could pick one or several to let the full city council weigh in, or they could determine that more analysis is needed on any one of the variables.

The Governance Committee includes District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, District 4 Councilman Saldaña, and District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.