Bag Monster Visits Austin

Andy Keller, the head of the reusable bag company ChicoBag™ company invented Bag Monsters®. Andy had been using a huge ball of 500 plastic bags to show people at farmer’s market how many plastic bags an average American uses yearly – and one day he decided to wear it. Thus was the spawning of the first Bag Monster® (costume that is). This summer the Bag Monster is doing a national tour.

When the Bag Monster arrived in Austin on August 26, he couldn’t have come to town at a better time. The Austin City Council is awaiting the results of a study by our Solid Waste Services Department on the costs to Austin taxpayers of plastic bag waste – those that go to landfills and those that clog storm drains, litter parks or find other places to pollute.

In 2007, the City Council backed a voluntary effort by retailers and others that was supposed to reduce the amount of plastic bags in the waste stream by 50%. The voluntary effort resulted in the distribution of 900,000 reusable bags. However, less than 26% of 3.4 million pounds of plastic bags given out by the five participating retailers were recycled over the 18-month period of the voluntary program.

Thousands of Austin residents have written letters to the Austin City Council to urge them to pass a ban on plastic bags. (Local governments are not authorized by the State of Texas to put a tax on bags.) Local activists are urging retailers to provide incentives such as refunds for people who use reusable bags. One local chain Natural Grocers offers consumers free used cardboard boxes if they don’t have reusable bags.

The Bag Monster is looking for a friendly, pro-plastic bag place to call home. Austinites do not want to put out a welcome mat and instead are looking to the City Council to be the second city in Texas (after Brownsville) to send carry-out plastic bags packing.

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Cities, Countries Throughout the World Ban Plastic Bags

Brownsville was the first city in Texas to ban plastic bags, and now Austin is considering following suit. But we’re hardly alone! From a recent CNN report:

Mexico City’s thousands of stores went green Wednesday, as amended ordinances on solid waste now outlaw businesses from giving out thin plastic bags that are not biodegradable. Bans and other restrictions on plastic bags are in place in several countries. China has adopted a strict limit, reducing litter and eliminating the use of 40 billion bags, the World Watch Institute said, citing government estimates. In Tanzania, selling the bags carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and a fine of 1.5 million shilling ($1,137). Mumbai, India, outlawed the bags in 2000 and cities in Australia, Italy, South Africa and Taiwan have imposed bans or surcharges. Ireland reported cutting use of the bags by 90 percent after imposing a fee on each one.

So there’s a growing consensus: plastic bags need to go. California is considering a statewide ban, and it wouldn’t be California without a great video.