Both Dallas and Fort Worth activists are lobbying for plastic bag bans in their cities.


Jan. 14, 2014

By Julie Thibodeaux 

Fort Worth environmentalists have joined their Dallas counterparts in battling the plastic bag. Last month, both the Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club and Texas Campaign for the Environment in Dallas declared they aim to rid the streets of the single-use film bags that have become fixtures in the urban landscape

According to John MacFarlane, organizer for the Fort Worth campaign, their efforts started last summer after the Tarrant County group decided they wanted to be more involved in local issues. 

“We’ve mainly been a club with general meetings and speakers,” he said. “We decided to come together and be proactive to affect change in our city.”

They chose the non-biodegradable plastic bag as the first issue to tackle, because of its threat to the environment and wildlife. The bags clog up waterways, hang in trees and harm animals, including turtles and cattle, who ingest them.

So far the group has met with several Fort Worth city council members. They’ve also gathered more than 200 signatures on their petition.

In addition, they’re partnering with other local nonprofits in the cause, including Fort Worth Interfaith Power and Light, Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area and Texas Campaign for the Environment. 

Zac Trahan, director of Texas Campaign for the Environment’s Dallas office, is overseeing a plastic bag campaign in Dallas and providing support for the Fort Worth ban. He said momentum is building locally on the issue.

“There’s a growing group of people and organizations working on this,” he said.

The Dallas City Council is considering a ban after councilman Dwaine Caraway proposed one in March. The proposal has garnered some high profile support, including Garrett Boone, co-founder of the Container Store, and Texas Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel. The City Council will hear another briefing on the subject on Wednesday.

Right, Plastic bag monster, courtesy of TCE.

However, Trahan said the opposition has come out swinging.

“The plastic bag industry is working a lot harder than anything I’ve ever seen from the gas industry.”

Pro-bag proponents include Hilex Poly Co. The South Carolina-based manufacturer of film plastic bags has three facilities in North Texas and operates the largest plastic bag recycling facility in the U.S, according to their website.

In addition, Republic Services recently opened a state-of-the-art materials recovery facility in Fort Worth that can collect bags in the sorting process. This allows customers, including Arlington residents, to put plastic bags in their curbside recycling bins for the first time. This technological breakthrough could be fodder for those who want to keep the bags around.

Above, plastic bag sorting at Republic Services facility in Fort Worth. 

However, Trahan said recycling more bags isn’t the answer. 

“The reality is, the way these products are designed is the problem in the first place – they’re disposable, they’re flimsy, they’re more likely to wind up as litter,” he said. “Yes, we should change behavior but getting rid of these products solves the problem before it starts.”

There are nine cities in Texas that have banned plastic bags: Fort Stockton and Kermit in West Texas; Brownsville, South Padre Island, Laguna Vista, Laredo and Freer in South Texas; and Austin and Sunset Valley in Central Texas. In addition, like Dallas, San Antonio and Corpus Christie have proposed bans. 

Right, Map courtesy of TCE.

Meanwhile bag bans are spreading across the country. San Francisco was the first U.S. city to ban the plastic bag in 2007, with Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles following. In 2012, Hawaii became the first state to give the bags the boot. See list of U.S. and international bag bans.

Could Metroplex activists unite to eliminate plastic bags in North Texas?

“It’s really hard to go after a lot of cities at once,” said Trahan. “But if we could get this done in Dallas, it could help spur a Fort Worth ban.”