Communities across the United States have banned plastic and paper bags, the kind that you get at grocery stores and take-out spots. But Dallas hasn’t been able to decide, at least not since council member Dwaine Caraway proposed a ban a year ago.
Caraway wasn’t always a green-living kind of a guy.
“I was the last one to get on board with recycling,” Caraway said. “In fact, recycling in this city was somewhat being held up because I was not on board. But once through education, you learn, and you see yourself, and you say, 'Hey, this is the right thing to do.'”
At the last city council discussion on this topic, back in January, there was a general feeling that something should be done, but no agreement on what.
“They can say what they want,” he said. “But you got to put some do with what your desire is. As long as there are hundreds of bags clogging the creek lines. Do I turn my back, do I close my eyes, or do I do something about it?”
He’s been making his case to just about everyone, including students at Legacy Prep School. Teacher Bonnie Mosby and her sixth graders have been working on a month-long research project on the pros and cons of plastic bags.
"Plastic bags are not useful because even though they are free, they tear, real easily,” said 11-year-old Sebastian Almendarez.
Classmate Camille Williams says she’s seen the insides of birds, turtles and fish that have died from eating plastic. She has an idea.
“Dump the plastic, go burlap,” Williams said. “Erm, I understand that Burlap is kind of rough, but this is a different solution way, to solving this problem in our city, our environment.”
11-year-old Jose Herrera says his schoolwork showed bag makers would have to let employees go.
“It will impact businesses because when you stop plastic bags, those companies are going to lose money,” said Herrera.
Annually, an estimated 100 billion plastic bags are produced in the US. The Texas Retailers Association, and in particular Kroger, says a plastic or paper bag ban is bad for businesses.
Standing at the end of a check-out counter inside a Dallas store, Kroger spokesman Gary Huddleston says it isn’t good for the customer, or the company.
“Very inconvenient for the customer,” he said. “And then also the customer will have to go and buy more plastic bags for their trash can liners, to pick up their pet waste, etc. [It would] be some expense to them, and it would be some expense to Kroger.”
That’s how at least one Kroger shopper Chris Sweeney feels, too.
“They need to have some kind of compromise on the plastic bags,” Sweeney said. “I know they’re getting everywhere, I’ve seen them myself, along fence lines and highways, but there’s more to it than just banning. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Shoppers Odis Johnson and his wife, Alice, support a ban.
“I don’t have no problem with it,” he said. “The bags don’t hold much. And either they put one or two items in it, then you got a bunch of little bags that you don’t do nothing with, or they put something in it and the bottom falls out.”
Statistics show that plastic bags are used only once or twice, and then trashed. Councilman Caraway asks, “Who’s going to clean up all that litter?”
The only solution for taxpayers, he says, is a city-wide ban on plastic bags.
“People in Austin are doing it,” Caraway said. “Folks in the state of California are doing it. They still have groceries stores. They still have jobs. They have cleaner cities. Less litter, and a cleaner environment. So why should Dallas be any different?”