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Dallas' plastic bag ordinance challenged by manufacturers

Large cities across the U.S., including several right here in Texas, are becoming more environmentally conscious and actively implementing measures to reduce the carbon footprints of their residents. Some of these measures include expanded recycling efforts, bike-sharing programs, and rooftop solar panels, to name only a few.

Still other cities are enacting regulations designed to accomplish these eco-minded objectives, including Dallas, which recently introduced a new ordinance concerning single-use plastic bags.

The ordinance, which took effect on the first of the year, mandates the following:

  • Businesses must charge an environmental fee of five cents for every plastic bag provided to customers with 90 percent of this amount going to the city.
  • Businesses must post multilingual signs, measuring a minimum of 11-by-17 inches, indicating that they are registered to sell single-use plastic bags and outlining customer options for carrying purchased items.
  • Single-use plastic bags must be manufactured to a certain thickness, and must bear the name of the business and the bag thickness.

While this ordinance has been lauded by environmental advocacy groups, it has encountered strong resistance from the business community, including the manufacturers of these single-use plastic bags.

Indeed, four of these manufacturers with plants located in Texas -- the Inteplast Group, Advance Polybag, Superbag Operating, and Hilex Poly Co. -- filed a lawsuit in the 44th State District Court earlier this week against the City of Dallas over the ordinance.

The lawsuit, which is seeking over $200,000 in damages and other forms of relief, argues that the ordinance is both an impermissible sales tax and a violation of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

Furthermore, it contends that its requirements are unduly burdensome and constitute a real hardship, as it necessitates additional manufacturing runs and increases the costs of doing business (employee training, inspection, storage, etc.). It also contends that Dallas retailers are being harmed by shoppers choosing to frequent those retail establishments where they don’t have to pay for single-use plastic bags.

For their part, city officials are standing by the ordinance and pointing out how the lead plaintiff, Hilex Poly Co., had previously expressed support for the measure.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires as a result of this business litigation. Stay tuned for developments.

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