Unintended consequences

In March 2013, the City of Austin instituted a “bag ban”. No “single-use” plastic bags for you!

Of course, there are some that took the mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” quite to heart. For example, we’d get part of our groceries in paper bags because paper bags had reuse around our household, and of course being paper they didn’t create the landfill problem. We did get some plastic bags because we would reuse them as garbage can liners (instead of buying plastic garbage can liners), and we’d dispose of messy things in them (e.g. dirty diapers (back when we had kids in diapers), scooping out the litterbox, etc.). And that which we didn’t or couldn’t use (e.g. bag had a hole on it), we would recycle.

Yes, there’s always been recycling of plastic bags. At least, as far as I’ve seen. Outside the front doors of every grocery store was a bin you could put your plastic bags into. They didn’t just accept the grocery store’s bags, but any sort of plastic film.

Did you ever realize how much plastic film you obtain?

There’s dry cleaning bags, product packaging, the plastic bags you bring produce home in. If you stop and pay attention, you’ll find there’s far more plastic being used and wasted in the products you bring home — in your reusable grocery bags — than there was in the bags themselves.

Wife made a habit of collecting all the plastic films and wrappers, along with plastic bags we couldn’t reuse. Every so often she would haul her collection to the grocery store, fill up the recycle bin, and the circle was complete. 🙂

We’ve been filling up our local plastic stash for some time… always forgetting to take it to the store. We collected quite a pile in the garage. 🙂  We needed to make space in the garage, so I piled all the wrappers and bags into my truck to take to the local grocery store to deposit in the bin.

As I rolled up to the store, I saw no bins outside any of the doors! I saw a store employee sweeping in the parking lot (it was very early in the morning) and asked. He said the bins were gone, that the city came by a few weeks ago and took them.

Uh… huh.

I dialed 311 to ask the City folk what I was supposed to do.

I don’t fault the person on the phone, it’s not their fault, but all they could do was quote to me what they read in the city’s information website:


No. We process recyclables at two local recycling processing facilities that use automated systems to sort and bale the recyclables. Prohibited items, like plastic bags, jam the automated machinery. Take plastic shopping bags to your local grocery stores for recycling.

I applauded when the city went to single-stream recycling. Not only does making it easy to recycle increase participation, but they also moved to a processor that could accept just about everything (e.g. not just 1 and 2 type plastics, but any type). But I knew it was an automated system that sorted things, so the denial of plastic bags makes sense.

But note, even now they still say to take the bags to the local grocery store for recycling.

Seems we can’t do that any more. It may be possible at some store, but I don’t have the time to go all over the city looking for the stores that will do this. Sorry.

And I was told to just throw my plastic in the trash.

Gee, Austin. Glad you like taking steps to “feel good” about “doing something” about “these problems that our society faces”. Next time, maybe you should think things through first.

And never forget what the road to Hell is paved with.

2 thoughts on “Unintended consequences

  1. I wonder if your family (and others) will throw away more plastic than was being thrown away by non-recylers city wide pre-ban.

    • Probably no way to measure that.

      Still, the removal of recycling options doesn’t seem very Austin, does it?

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