Starting this week, retailers in Dallas are no longer required to charge for bags they give to customers after city councilors voted to repeal a short-lived ordinance. The previous law, which just went into effect on January 1 of this year, forced retailers to charge customers a 5-cent environment fee for every plastic bag provided at checkout.
The reversal comes shortly after a group of plastic bag manufacturers filed a lawsuit that alleged the Dallas ordinance violated the Texas Solid Waste Disposable Act. The suit essentially labeled the environmental fee an illegal tax, citing a ruling made by the state’s former attorney general.
Some city officials in Dallas thought the courts would rule in favor of the plaintiffs and decided a legal fight would be unwise – especially regarding a law that’s unpopular. Compared to cities in California, where single-use bag bans have great support, polling in Dallas has shown local residents largely oppose the ordinance. “The city council felt that it was probably not right to fight this ordinance in court,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “There were folks on either side saying we don’t want to do that.”
While the ordinance was tossed out by a 10-4 margin, some city councilors still favor an outright ban of single-use plastic bags. Councilman Dwaine Caraway has argued big business – not citizens – won out with the change in the law. “We'll fight our way to the voting boxes, and we’ll fight and find people with a backbone,” he said.
Caraway was one of several city councilors to support a single-use ban in a separate vote held last week. That measure failed, while the repeal passed. Following the repeal, city councilor Jennifer Gates tweeted: “No winners today, just council’s desire to make the right decision for Dallas. If behavior has changed regarding plastic bag use for the good, repealing the ordinance doesn't have to change that.”
Since the start of 2015, Dallas has raised $500,000 from the environmental fees that were collected through the ordinance. City officials said they would decide what to do with that money at a later time.