The use of plastic grocery bags could have its days numbered in the city of Big Spring, as the city council is expected to begin discussions on the use — and possible elimination — of the items.
According to City Manager Gary Fuqua, the council will discuss the matter during its Tuesday night meeting, but no action will take place, at least not at this time.
“As most people know, a lot of the other cities have placed ordinances on the plastic shopping bags and we just want to sit down and have a dialogue on this and see what's best for the city of Big Spring,” Fuqua said. “There are a lot of different routes you can go. There are the re-useable bags, you can simply do away with the plastic bags or you can have the customers pay a deposit on them.”
Fuqua said he's discussed the matter with local business owners and there doesn't appear to be any easy fix to the growing litter-problem the bags pose in and around the city.
“I was recently talking to the manager of one of our local markets, and he was telling me one of the plastic shopping bags costs about 1 cent,” Fuqua said. “On the other hand, a paper bag costs about 8 cents, so you're talking about a pretty big difference in cost.
“The council just wants to open discussion on the matter right now. We're not at a point where any decisions are being made. It's pretty obvious the bags have become a major litter problem within the city. All you have to do is look around and you'll see them waving around in the mesquite trees. The mayor just wants to look at the situation so we can decide where to go from here.”
Brownsville set a trend last year when it became the first city in Texas to ban the use of plastic grocery bags in nearly all consumer settings. Brownsville mayor Pat Ahumada told the New York Times that 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."
Similar bans have already been instituted in Fort Stockton, South Padre Island, Austin — where the ban is set to go into effect in March 2013 — and Pecos. Elsewhere, cities such as San Antonio, McAllen and Corpus Christi are currently considering implementing a ban on the plastic grocery bags.
Also during Tuesday's meeting, the council is expected to discuss possible revisions to the watering schedule of its Drought Contingency Plan, which is currently in Stage 3 of operations.
According to Fuqua, many of the other cities currently served by the Colorado River Municipal Water District — which has found itself drought stricken and with a dwindling supply of water at its reservoirs — have moved to a system of allowing watering for only two hours each week.
The city of Big Spring currently allows for four hours each week, including Saturdays from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. for residential customers and Tuesdays from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. for businesses.
“A lot of the cities have gone to a two-hour a week schedule in an effort to try to keep the trees alive, but that's about it,” Fuqua said. “We haven't made any changes yet and we're still in Stage 3 of the plan, but I feel like we're going to have to make some changes pretty soon.”
Fuqua said the city has managed to stay well within the limitations set by CRMWD during recent months, however, as temperature begin to rise, so will water usage.
“We've managed to stay under the limits set by CRMWD, but these have been during the winter months. That's important to remember,” he said. “However, as the temperatures begin to rise, folks are going to want to start taking care of their yards and all of that is going to change. Going to a two-hour a week scheduleis certainly something we're going to have to look at.”
Tuesday's meeting is expected to get under way at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, located at 307 E. Fourth Street. Fore more information call 264-2401. Also, a complete copy of the meeting agenda can be found online at www.mybigspring.com