2014-10-16 / Front Page

Bag ban vote scheduled

Port Aransas council addresses issue Thursday
Dan Parker
Reporter


Family Center IGA employee Denise Greer (obscured behind bag) helps customer Adam Maldonado of Port Aransas bag groceries after his purchases on Monday, Oct. 13. The Port Aransas City Council is scheduled to hold a first vote Thursday, Oct. 16, on whether to ban plastic shopping bags from points of sale in town. 
Staff photo by Dan Parker Family Center IGA employee Denise Greer (obscured behind bag) helps customer Adam Maldonado of Port Aransas bag groceries after his purchases on Monday, Oct. 13. The Port Aransas City Council is scheduled to hold a first vote Thursday, Oct. 16, on whether to ban plastic shopping bags from points of sale in town. Staff photo by Dan Parker If things go as planned, Port Aransas citizens soon will learn how their full city council leans on a proposal to ban plastic shopping bags at points of sale in town.

The council could hold a first vote on a ban ordinance at a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 16. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. at council chambers, 710 W. Ave. A.

The council must approve the ordinance in votes at three separate meetings to make it law.

The council discussed the possibility of a ban during the spring and decided to have staff produce a plan that attacks the litter and trash situation in Port Aransas with a wider variety of methods.

City Manager Dave Parsons presented a plan that was extensive but not completely finished at the council’s last meeting, on Sept. 18. The council approved Parsons’ ideas for finishing the plan and also asked staff to prepare a proposed ordinance to ban bags.

The question now is whether the council will make the proposal a law.

Those arguing in favor of a ban have pointed out that plastic bags blowing around town not only are ugly but also present hazards to wildlife. Sea turtles, for example, have been known to eat plastic, thinking it’s food, and it can kill them.

Some groups in town have been pushing for council action on the plastic bag issue and on litter in general. The Skip the Plastic Port Aransas organization has circulated hardcopy and online petitions calling for a ban on plastic shopping bags at points of sale.

The petitions have garnered about 1,000 signatures, ac- cording to Colleen McCue, a member of the Skip the Plastic Port Aransas steering committee.

The Keep Port Aransas Beautiful (KPAB) group has come out in favor of a ban.

Members of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute Green Team have spoken out in favor of more environmentally friendly regulations in Port Aransas.

People who oppose a ban have said a high percentage of the plastic bags that end up as litter in Port Aransas originated in other cities and then were brought here by tourists. A city survey of litter earlier this year seemed to bear out that claim.

Those opposing a ban also have argued that forcing people to buy re-usable cloth bags at Port Aransas stores could be bad for tourism.

Even if a majority of council members favor passing an ordinance, they could exempt certain kinds of businesses from having to comply with a ban. Restaurants, for example, could be exempt. Some have argued that restaurants would have a hard time finding a way to package carry out orders other than by use of plastic bags.

The council also might need to spell out exactly what kinds of plastic bags should be prohibited. They come in a variety of sizes, styles and thicknesses. A plastic shopping bag that comes from a grocery store, for example, tend to be different from the heavier duty kinds that are used at clothing stores.

Several Texas cities, including South Padre Island, have enacted bag bans.

If the council favors the ordinance, a third reading could come before the end of the year. But Parsons said he is suggesting that the law not take effect until Jan. 1, 2016, to give businesses time to use up their stock of bags and institute new methods of helping consumers transport their purchases. Until then, businesses would be asked to not use bags on a voluntary basis, he said.

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