Dallas OKs 5-Cent Charge on Grocery Bags

     DALLAS (CN) - Dallas approved a partial ban on single-use bags, increasing the odds of litigation by retailers tasked with charging customers for their use.
     By 8-6 vote Wednesday, the Dallas City Council approved the "environmental fee" ordinance that will require retailers to charge customers 5 cents for each single-use carryout bag, plastic or paper. The ordinance will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
     The law states: "A business establishment shall list the environmental fee as a separate item on the customer's transaction receipt detailing the number of single-use carryout bags provided to the customer and the total charge for the environmental fee.
     "A business establishment shall not rebate or reimburse any portion of the environmental fee to a customer."
     Retailers will have to post signs and print the thickness of the bags on each bag, among other things. They will keep half a cent for each bag sold.
     The city will spend the money on the costs of the registration program, purchase and distribution of reusable carryout bags, public awareness programs against single-use carryout bags and environmental clean-up programs.
     Gary Huddleston, director of consumer affairs for the Kroger grocery chain, told ABC-affiliate WFAA there are a lot of unanswered questions about the ordinance.
     "We've got a real concern with this new ordinance that charges a nickel per paper and plastic bag that customers may go into our [recycling] barrels to take out plastic bags to reuse them," Huddleston said Thursday.
     Kroger will remove recycling bins at eight Dallas stores to avoid this, he said.
     The city sought the partial ban to promote a "culture of clean."
     "The city of Dallas desires to protect the natural environment, the economy, and the health of its residents," the ordinance states. "The improper disposal of single-use carryout bags has a negative impact on the environment by contributing to unsightly ugliness on the streets, sidewalks, trees, bushes, vacant lots, city parks, waterways, reservoirs and shorelines that is detrimental to the quality of life of residents, the property values of homeowners, and the tourism industry."
     The littering requires hundreds of volunteer hours to remove from trees, lots and roadways, the city says.
     Exempt from the ordinance are dry cleaning bags, paper bags provided by pharmacists or veterinarians for drugs, restaurant paper bags and produce bags, among others
     Austin adopted a total ban on single-use bags in 2013, which brought a lawsuit by the Texas Retailers Association. The lawsuit in Travis County Court claimed the ordinance was pre-empted by state law.
     State Rep. Dan Flynn has asked Texas Attorney General Abbott whether such bag ban laws violate state law. Flynn told Fox-affiliate KTBC in Austin his concern is not with the use of plastic bags, but with the perceived abuse of power.
     "It's not about Austin, it's all about state authority and the power grab by some cities over state law, that's just about the easiest way to say it," Flynn said Wednesday.