2014-03-27 / Front Page

Attention, shoppers!

A bag ban for Port Aransas?
Dan Parker
South Jetty


Port Aransas City Councilman Steve Lanoux holds up a plastic bag as Councilman Edwin Myers looks on following a Thursday, March 20 council meeting where several people, including Lanoux, called on the city to ban single-use disposable plastic shopping bags at the point of sale. The council is expected to discuss the idea more next month. 
Staff photo by Dan Parker Port Aransas City Councilman Steve Lanoux holds up a plastic bag as Councilman Edwin Myers looks on following a Thursday, March 20 council meeting where several people, including Lanoux, called on the city to ban single-use disposable plastic shopping bags at the point of sale. The council is expected to discuss the idea more next month. Staff photo by Dan Parker You’ve seen them blowing down the beach, lying in vacant lots and dangling from bushes at the side of the road.

They’re a pers istent source of litter. But they’re also the dominant method that thousands of shoppers, many of them visitors, use for carrying groceries and other products out of stores in Port Aransas.

Should Port Aransas ban single-use plastic shopping bags or find another way to reduce that litter stream?

The city council will discuss the issue at its meeting on Thursday, April 17, according to Mayor Keith McMullin. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at council chambers, 710 W. Ave. A.

The topic wasn’t officially on the agenda, but several people stood during the public comment period and spoke out in support of a ban at the council meeting on Thursday, March 20.

Councilman Steve Lanoux said he’s in favor of a ban at the point of sale. Among other things, plastic bags are bad for sea turtles, which sometimes mistake waterborne plastic debris for food, Lanoux said. The mistake can kill them.

No other council members stated opinions during the meeting.

In an interview, Mike Hall, co-owner and store director at the Family Center IGA, said he wants to find a way to battle plastic bag litter, but he also said he cannot currently get behind the idea of a ban because he doesn’t know of a good alternative for people to be able to deal with their purchases at the IGA and other businesses around town.

The grocery store sells the kinds of canvas bags that people commonly use as reusable shopping bags, Hall said. But people should keep in mind canvas bags have to be kept scrupulously clean, because bacteria can grow in them when perishable food leaks.

A large percentage of customers at the IGA and other Port Aransas stores are tourists who likely won’t have canvas shopping bags when they visit here on vacation, he said.

Public education and litter law enforcement might be the best move, Hall said. Still, he said he’s open to talking about the issue and would like to find a workable solution.

At the council meeting, Port Aransas resident Mallory Kollaja said she’s tired of picking up the disposable bags she sees lying around town.

“I just think the time has come for us to do something about this,” she said.

Suzanne McCann echoed those sentiments.

“I live right by the water, and bags are always blowing in,” she said. “ They’re a nuisance.”

Also pointing out plastic bag litter problems were former councilman Mark Grosse and University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) research fellow Tony Amos, who is director of the Animal Rehabilitation Keep. Amos has witnessed many cases of wildlife being injured and killed over the years by getting tangled in plastics and swallowing them.

A few members of the Green Team attended the meeting. The Green Team is an environmental group of UTMSI personnel who work to develop solutions to issues that result in a more ecologically friendly and sustainable environment.

Two members of the Texas Coastal Bend Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation also attended. One was Cliff Schlabach, president of the non-profit organization that focuses on issues including beach access and water quality.

Schlabach is a Corpus Christi resident, but he said he’s been visiting Port Aransas to surf for 50 years.

“ I love Port Aransas,” Schlabach said. “ It’s my favorite spot in the whole world. … I’d certainly like to see Port Aransas take up the (plastic bag) issue.”

The other Surf r ider Foundation member at the meeting was Neil McQueen, who leads the chapter’s “Skip the Plastic” program that battles litter produced by single-use disposable plastics such as plastic bags and beverage bottles.

Skip the Plastic tried to persuade the Corpus Christi City Council to institute a ban on plastic bags at the point of sale, but it stalled, after splitting, 4-4, on the topic in January.

Inspired by the group in Corpus Christi, a coalition called Skip the Plastic Port Aransas is forming. Rae Mooney of the Green Team is one of the coalition’s organizers. She said about 45 people are involved right now.

Skip the Plastic Port Aransas is circulating a petition calling on the city council to ban single- use plastic bags in Port Aransas.

A number of members of the Keep Port Aransas Beautiful (KPAB) are part of Skip the Plastic Port Aransas, said Julie Findley, president of KPAB. At press time, it looked likely that the nonprofit organization would hold a vote on Tuesday, March 25, on whether KPAB itself should join the coalition, Findley said. KPAB has about 90 members.

Organizations including the Skip the Plastic groups out of Corpus Christi and Port Aransas took part in a beach cleanup at San Jose Island on Saturday, March 22. Eighty volunteers picked up enough litter – largely plastic bottles, but also some plastic bags – to fill three dumpsters, McQueen said.

No one at the recent Port Aransas council meeting spoke against the idea of a bag ban, but the public will have another opportunity to comment at the council meeting in April. McMullin said he would encourage everyone, including the business community, to weigh in on the issue. He said the purpose of putting the bag issue on the agenda for next month’s meeting is to “gauge the temperature” of the community on the issue.

“This is an opportunity for people to tell us what they want,” the mayor said.

McMullin said he has “no dead-set plan in my head about what the right thing is to do on this.”

An outright ban isn’t the only option that exists for dealing with plastic shopping bags. At least one city, Denver, has talked about imposing a five-cent fee for every bag given to customers in grocery and convenience stores. The idea of the fee would be to encourage consumers to bring reusable bags, cutting down on how many disposable plastic bags are used.

Various towns have dealt with the issue in various ways. In coming weeks, Port Aransas city staff will be researching how some of those other towns have handled it, McMullin said. Staff is expected to present those findings to the council.

Anyone who’d like to join Skip the Plastic Port Aransas may contact Mooney by email at raemooney86@gmail.com.

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