Skip the Plastic is proposing a fee for single-use plastic bags in Corpus Christi

Less trash is good for everyone. It’s important for Corpus Christi’s image to visitors from other cities, it helps the growth of our tourism industry and it aids local businesses when they are recruiting investors and staff. Following the success of the City’s new single-stream curbside recycling program, the bag fee is the next logical step in making our community more sustainable and a better place in which to live.

We are proposing a City ordinance similar to Brownsville’s with the following elements:

  • A one-year voluntary period before the fee is mandatory.
  • A committee consisting of seven members will be formed – One member from a retail business, one member of the Chamber of Commerce, one member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, one member from the Clean City Advisory Committee, one member from Corpus Christi Pride, one member from the City’s Environmental Programs or Solid Waste Departments and one member from Skip the Plastic. The committee will monitor the effects of the ordinance, troubleshoot any issues with the application or enforcement of the ordinance and report periodically to the city council. The committee will last for one year after the mandatory fee takes effect.
  • During the one-year voluntary period, retailers will begin educating their customers about reusable bags and the need to move away from single-use bags in order to clean the city up. Free or highly discounted reusable bags will be made available to customers.
  • Written bilingual notices as well as television and radio spots will inform the public of the upcoming fee on single-use bags, and will encourage them to shift to reusable bags.
  • Once the mandatory period begins, retailers will be encouraged to discontinue the use of single-use bags. If they choose to continue providing single-use bags, they will need to charge $1.00 per transaction when a customer wants one or more bags. Ninety-five cents of each charge will go to a City fund, while the retailer retains five cents for administrative costs.
  • The City fund will be used for public education on litter, free reusable bags, area cleanups and the hiring of more anti-litter code enforcement officers.

Results of Brownsville’s Single-Use Plastic Bag Fee

Interview with Arturo Rodriguez, Public Health Director, City of Brownsville, Oct. 12, 2011:

1) Has the City of Brownsville had any problems implementing or managing the ordinance?

No, we have not had significant issues in implementing the ordinance, in fact we were surprised as to how smooth our implementation moved as we had provided plenty of bags and advanced marketing ahead of the Jan 5th 2011.

2) Have you seen a big reduction in plastic bag use and litter?

We have seen a big reduction in single use bags in our city. We estimate that 350,000 bags have been cut out of the waste stream/day as a consequence of the ordinance. This is based on a formula of # of bags used per person/year.

3) How have the stores responded to it?

The stores were part of the EAC (Environment Advisory Committee) which gave them 1 year of information and they were also part of the grassroots efforts. Most retailers were polled by our chamber of commerce and were in support of such ordinance provided it was all or none.

4) How much money has been collected since January and what exactly is it being used for?

The provisionary fee is assessed at the point of sale for those who wish to pay a $1 for the use of single use plastic bags per transaction (not per bag). Any merchant who opts to keep non-reusable bags around to supply for their customers will have to charge the $1 fee during each sales transaction in which these bags are requested by the customer. Under the ordinance a store/retailer may choose to offer this but we are down to 5-6 retailers still offering this option as it was meant to be strictly a provisionary measure and should be doing away this fee very soon.

The fee collected thus far is about $300,000 and the use has been earmarked by the ordinance specifically for environmentally friendly projects such as clean ups, increasing trash bins and increasing our recycling around the city with various projects being put together, including a beautification project to keep our highways clean.

5) Are there any other pros or cons resulting from the ban?

The ordinance has resulted in a cleaner Brownsville which has the effect of a much cleaner and safer city because our city was prone to flooding in part because our plastic bags would clog up our main drains and our city ‘s oxbow lakes would also be riddled with plastic bags. The cons’s ?? could be that it’s been hard to develop the habits for many of our citizens and it’s still common occurrence to see people leave the store with their products in the shopping cart because they forgot to bring a bag along.