Bag ban discussed by council

Discussion Tuesday night by the Big Spring City Council on whether or not to ban the use of plastic grocery-type bags in the city limits ended with the panel agreeing the matter warrants more research and — most of all — a wary eye.The council's decision to approach the matter comes on the heels of similar bans proposed and instituted in Fort Stockton, South Padre Island, Austin and Pecos, a trend started last year when Brownsville became the first city in Texas to ban the use of plastic bags in nearly all consumer settings.Elsewhere, cities such as San Antonio, McAllen and Corpus Christi are currently considering implementing a ban on the bags.Brownsville mayor Pat Ahumada told the New York Times the ban had eliminated 350,000 plastic bags per day, a decrease that "transformed our city from littered and dirty to a much cleaner city." However, Mayor Tommy Duncan and the rest of the Big Spring council say the matter deserves a great deal more research before the Crossroads area decides whether or not to follow suit.“It's a topic that seems to be going around in several states right now, whether we should ban the use of plastic bags or regulate their use,” Duncan said. “I have done quite a bit of research on the Internet and what I'd like to do is let each of you (council members) express any opinions you may have — I have a couple of items I'd like to say — then let each of you go back and do your own research. Then, if you feel like this is an issue we need to bring to the council for action, then let me know that and we'll do so.“I've found several cities in California and a few in Texas who are taking the steps to banning plastic bags. However, I understand there are several sides to this issue,” Duncan said. “I know from some of the data Mr. Fuqua gathered that plastic bags cost a penny and paper bags cost 8 or 9 cents, so the cost passed to the customer will go up if we ban those bags. I spoke to a local citizen who is handicapped and she told me she absolutely needs the plastic bags to get her groceries to and from her car because of the handles and the ability to get several bags and make it to the car with them. She has people who shop for her.“Another thing Mr. Fuqua uncovered is it takes seven semi truck loads to deliver the same amount of paper bags as one semi truck load of plastic bags. It takes three to four times the amount of water to make a paper bag than what it takes to make a plastic bag. So there are all kinds of issues at stake, but I also recognize when you drive down the street there are plastic bags hanging up in the mesquite trees and it is very unsightly. I think we need to look at all of our options, different things we may be able to do to keep Big Spring beautiful. I think eliminating the use of plastic bags is not the only option.”City Manager Gary Fuqua said the issue certainly has two sides and he will have to do much more research before he feels comfortable giving the council — or anyone else — a recommendation on which way to go on the issue.“There is a lot more involved when you look at what it takes. Everyone wants to go green, of course, and it takes more water and it's harder to recycle (paper bags),” Fuqua said. “A lot of the towns that I researched actually put in a strict recycling program, and you can also put a deposit on the plastic bags and have them returned for a refund similar to what we used to do with Coke bottles back when we were kids ... I certainly have a lot more research I want to do before I give any kind of recommendation on the matter.“I was asked if plastic bags are a problem, and it's litter in-general that's the problem for us. The West Texas winds are a problem because it blows whatever we have. There is a lot that I'm still researching and I will certainly share that information with the council. I'll get it together and get it to each of you before the next meeting.”