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The Austin Bag Ban

Austin is unique among Texas cities, so it’s no wonder that the Austin Bag Ban is also unique.

Austin’s Single Use Bag Ordinance, known as SUBO, bans single use bags outright and regulates what qualifies as a reusable bag. It encourages a shift toward reusable bags by regulating the supply of bags available. In its definition of a reusable bag, The Austin bag ban contains requirements that are unique and help move consumers and businesses to work together in this sustainability effort.

There is no bag fee in the Austin bag ban, so it’s a true and simple ban of single use bags. The crux of the law depends on its definition of what makes a bag reusable.  The law allows reusable bags made of cloth and machine washable fabrics of all kinds.  The law also permits plastic film bags which are not machine washable. However, plastic film bags must be at least 4 mil thick to be reusable in Austin.  That is nearly 40% thicker than a reusable bag as defined in California.  The intention is for Austin businesses to purchase and distribute bags that are durable for the long haul.

Austin also requires important messages in store to help businesses and consumers work together to reduce bag waste. Reusable bags must display language describing their re-usability in a visible manner. Additionally stores must post signs in English and Spanish describing the city’s ban on single use bags and encouraging customers to remember their own.

Austin’s SUBO requires a full study to assess results in 2020. However, one study from 2015 already documents the success of the law.  It shows the ban has reduced the number of bags used in Austin. Overall, the study found that the ban reduced bag use by more than 197,000 bags.  Moreover, litter of bags was also markedly lower.  In comparison with the nearby city of Forth Worth, which has a low rate of .12% bags in their litter, Austin had a mere .03% of single use bags in their littler.

The current study indicates that an increase of plastic has been detected in the recycling and waste stream, and recommends eliminating the 4 mil film bag as an option for consumers, allowing only washable bags instead.

Because of their unique requirements, bags purchased by stores for distribution in Austin need to be carefully selected to comply with the law. Contact us for bags that are guaranteed to comply with a bag ban in your area.