Single Use Plastic Bag Facts

Nearly 200 different species of sea life including whales, dolphins, seals and turtles die due to plastic bags.

- World Wildlife Fund Report 2005

Data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency shows that somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.

-National Geographic News, September 2, 2003

Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled. It costs more to recycle a bag than to produce a new one.

- Christian Science Monitor News Paper

Plastic Bags have been found floating north of the Arctic Circle and as far south as the Falkland Islands.

- British Antarctic Survey

Plastic Bags in Corpus Christi

Click on the images to see bigger pictures

Clean and attractive beaches are important for our local tourism industry and residents’ quality of life. According to a recent Convention & Visitors Bureau study, nature tourism comprises over 40% of total tourism in the Coastal Bend. Also, a survey of 1,900 city residents done for the Regional Economic Development Corporation showed that the water and beach rank highest among their favorite things about Corpus Christi.

The Texas General Land Office’s 2010 Adopt a Beach Cleanup report shows that after cigarette butts and plastic caps, plastic bags are the third most common type of litter encountered (23,039 picked up) on the Texas coastline.

The Surfrider Foundation’s national program to reduce the impact of plastics in the marine environment was established after volunteers repeatedly noted the prevalence of plastic items during coastal cleanups.

With the inherent properties of being light and easily transported by the wind, single-use plastic bags pose a unique litter problem in Corpus Christi. No other type of trash detracts from scenery like plastic bags stuck on fences, trees and sand dunes.

Corpus Christi’s Solid Waste Services Department spends $190,000 each year to pick up loose plastic bags near the transfer station and along the road between the transfer station and the Cefe Valenzuela landfill. These are bags that have been properly disposed by residents but have flown from trucks or out of the transfer station.

Littered plastic bags cost city taxpayers in numerous other ways. Although these City departments have not been able to quantify the cost of dealing with plastic bags versus other types of trash, the Storm Water, Municipal Marina and Parks & Recreation Departments all have to expend fuel, equipment use and staff hours to remove them from infrastructure, the marina waters and parks.

While the single-stream curbside recycling program has succeeded in recycling a variety of plastic items, over 100 tons of bailed plastic bags have accumulated at the recycling facility since no market exists for them.

Skip the Plastic has proposed a $1 per transaction fee to help motivate people to bring their own bags. A fee is a charge connected to the actual direct cost of the activity. Conversely, a tax takes a cut of some other transaction for the purposes of raising revenue that’s not connected to the activity being taxed.

The proposed ordinance contains specific language stating the fund created by a bag fee would only be used for public education on litter, distribution of free reusable bags to the public, litter enforcement, and marina and public area cleanup initiatives.

The proposed ordinance exempts the following from a fee: bags used for pharmaceutical or medicinal items, bags for garments and laundry, and bags used to prevent cross contamination in cooked, chilled or frozen foods.

Our proposal recommends that a citywide public education program should be started during a one-year voluntary phase-in period. Part of this bilingual educational outreach would include the distribution of free or highly discounted reusable bags.

A voluntary education and outreach bag reduction program by itself will not be successful in solving the litter problem. Austin’s voluntary program in 2008-09 only achieved a 20% reduction in the number of plastic bags consumed by the public. As a result, Austin recently approved an ordinance banning plastic and paper shopping bags starting in March 2013.

Retailers like Target, Sprouts and CVS already offer customers a discount when they bring reusable bags instead of needing plastic or paper ones.

One retailer has stated that the City of Brownsville didn’t get enough input from the stores before moving forward. In order to prevent this from happening in Corpus Christi, Skip the Plastic urges all key stakeholders to participate in meetings to ensure the fee will be fairly implemented and that the burden on retailers is minimal.

Skip the Plastic believes an industry can be fostered in Texas to manufacture reusable canvas bags. This will create jobs and eliminate long distance shipping.

A 2010 study done at the University of Arizona and underwritten by the American Chemistry Council, a large group that represents plastics manufacturers, did not prove that reusable bags spread bacteria. Instead, it detected bacteria in 12% of the bags tested. Second, the bacteria can be eliminated through normal washing. People can be informed of this when receiving the reusable bags.

Single-use plastic shopping bags are not the only type of plastic bags available for reuse in other applications. With some creativity, people will find that bags that come with food items (bread, tortillas, cereal, etc.), other items purchased in stores and laundry can be used in place of plastic shopping bags for miscellaneous purposes.

The sole motivation of Skip the Plastic is to help clean up Corpus Christi and the surrounding marine environment. No profit making goals exist in the program.