Texas Supreme Court Overturns Plastic Bag Ban, Here's What's at Stake

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The effect of plastic bag pollution on a river. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • The effect of plastic bag pollution on a river.
The Texas Supreme Court today handed a defeat to local governments and the environment by knocking down the city of Laredo's ban on plastic bags.

The conservative-dominated court ruled unanimously that Texas' solid waste disposal laws pre-empt the city's ability to implement the program. The likely outcome? It looks like other cities with bag bans, Austin for example, will be unable to enforce them.

So, the likely next step for the issue is the Texas Legislature — assuming it can carve out some time to do anything other than dictate what bathrooms transgender people can use.

With an uncertain path ahead in the Republican-dominated legislature, here's a quick reminder of why one-use plastic bags suck bad enough that communities as widespread as Washington, D.C., and Karnataka, India, have banned them:
  • Worldwide, as many as one trillion plastic bags are used each year and less than 5 percent of plastic is recycled, according to the EPA.
  • The U.S. uses more than 380 billion plastic bags and wraps annually, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to produce, also according to the EPA.
  • Plastic marine debris kills over 100,000 marine turtles and mammals every year, Californians Against Waste estimates.
  • Plastic grocery bags were the seventh most common item collected during the Ocean Conservancy’s 2014 International Coastal Cleanup.
  • The New York City Sanitation Department collects 1,700 tons of plastic bags weekly at $12.5 million cost to taxpayers for disposal.
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