City Wide Plastic Bag Ban - San Antonio, Texas

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Criado Realty 0548772


Cathy Bureau attended the city of San Antonio's Citizen's Advisory Committee meeting today for Environmental Policy. The city is considering a city-wide plastic bag ban. This might sound a bit off the wall, maybe even kind of militant, but when you discover why you might find this to be a good idea.


1. Big box stores use single purpose bags.  They are too thin for most trash can use, or too small.

2. They do not come from recycled plastic. Recycling plants produce gray bags (

3. Finding recycling opportunities is difficult. In San Antonio the city doesn't pick them up so you have to remember to take them to the big box store.

4.  Stores are wasteful. I usually use canvas bags but when I only need one or two items I'll say no bag. Whoops! Too late, bagged. I say no bag, please re-use it. They throw it away. It makes me want to make an intercom announcement:  CODE GREEEN! CODE GREEEEEEN!!!

5.  They don't make good packing material. Better packing material is fresh made popcorn.

6.  The end up in the world famous San Antonio River

7.  They become wildlife death traps. 

8.  They get caught in sewer traps.

9.  On windy days they are all over the streets.

10.  They don't pack well so my groceries are a mess.



The city of San Antonio has a city-wide policy in place to reduce the use of plastic bags. When I heard this at the Citizen's Advisory Committee meeting today for Environmental Policy I had a knee jerk response - what business does the city have in dictating what kind of bag a retailer can use?

I listened and learned. What I came to realize is that the result of  plastic bag use has increased the city's expenses in several departments including the San Antonio River Authority, Edwards Aquifer, the Public Works department, and the Health department.

Just for fun, I researched the ordinance I was given from the city of Brownsville and found several articles on the matter. It turns out that the city is having great results. Of course there is always a critic. This is what the NY Times had to say, then I share something from Brownsville, one year later.


1.  “Walmart is committed to reducing its plastic bag waste, but we would rather see voluntary programs to reduce plastic bag use” instead of stricter policies like Brownsville’s, said Daniel Morales, a company spokesman in Texas.

San Antonio has had a voluntary policy in place for over a year and according to the committee, there has been little to no change in plastic bag demand. The stores are not making much effort. They sell the bags for $0.99 -$1.99 at the grocery stores when they could offer paper bags with handles for free. Those are reusable. 

2.  "The policy, which took effect in January, has eliminated more than 350,000 bags per day, according to Mayor Pat Ahumada, who said in an e-mail that it has 'transformed our city from littered and dirty to a much cleaner city."

That's alot of bags for Brownsville, Texas with a population of 175,023, the 16th largest Texas city. Compare that to San Antonio, the 2nd largest city with 1.33 M population which if you use the same calculation of bags per person as Brownsville that is 1.99 bags per person or 2.65M bags per day! (demographics courtesy of Wikipedia.

3. "While buying groceries at the A&V Lopez supermarket this week, Rosie Orozco also spent 79 cents on something to put them in: a reusable bag emblazoned “Keep Texas Green.” “I have a whole bunch of these in my truck,” she said, noting that she often forgets to take them in when she shops" 

Wow! Really?  So we should have 2,646,700 bags floating in our sewers, killing our wildlife, and littering my lawn so shoppers don't have to bother to remember to bring their reusable bag?

Most appreciate that the city is cleaner. Some think the city is looking to make a few extra bucks. Maybe if they san in city council sub-committees for hours like I did they would see the impact it is having and see the numbers on how much it is costing the city to clean up, as well as the number of dead animals. It is being initiated by the city's Health Department, along with a few other programs to fit the San Antnio 2020 misison to improve health and well-being for all our citizens, no matter how many legs.



Two other Texas communities, Fort Stockton and South Padre Island, have also approved bans on plastic bags, which will take effect in September and January, respectively. Several large cities, including Laredo and El Paso, have previously considered bans, and even the small town of Poteet, south of San Antonio, plans to assess its bag-banning options.

[If the video is not displaying I apogoize. It is acting up on my side. It's a video of Brownsville one year later, found on youtube.]

Source: NY Times




Posted by
Cathy Criado President & Founder
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999 E Basse Rd. #180-425, ​San Antonio, TX  78209​
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Jerry Newman
Brown Realty, 210-789-4216, - San Antonio, TX
Texas REALTOR, San Antonio Military Relocation

Hi Cathy.  Does this mean we are going back to those nice paper bags? What is the alternative if the plastic bags are discontinued???? You learned something Grreat Today. Thanks for sharing.

Mar 02, 2012 03:44 AM #1
Cathy Criado
Criado Realty - San Antonio, TX
Making Real Estate Profitable

Hi Jerry! The city of Brownsville pemits either reusable or the paper grocery bags with handles like Target currently offers. We're probably a few years away but its in the pipeline. Maybe I'll open up a specialty canvas bag store to get in early!


Mar 02, 2012 03:55 AM #2
John McCormack
Albuquerque Homes Realty * - Albuquerque, NM, Albuquerque Homes Realty

Cathy - The Albuquerque area is finally catching up on the GREEN thing!  Key word here is finally.  The Mayor announced a couple weeks ago he has a plan in place to get the entire city GREEN.  We're about half way there now.  It's a major undertaking that apparently cost a lot of money to get up and running.

Mar 02, 2012 04:21 AM #3
Anita Clark
ColdwellBanker SSK Realtors ~ 478.960.8055 - Warner Robins, GA
Realtor - Homes for Sale in Warner Robins GA

Cathy: When you start to peel it back you realize the effect is tremendous.  This is an easy way to go a little greener.

Mar 02, 2012 04:24 AM #4
Cathy Criado
Criado Realty - San Antonio, TX
Making Real Estate Profitable

John that's awesome!!! You know everybody says it costs more. But does it? For one thing much of it is paid by grant money that big gov is dishing out to someone, so why not your state and let them receive the benefit from it. Second, it costs the money more to clean it up. I was listening to the San Antonio River Authority GM talk about what is involved with removing plastic bags from the river, to recycle them, the Edwards Aquifer (our water source), and the Public Works. Then there are dead animal removals, etc. It is cheaper in the long run but people today are too short sighted. Yes, the economy is a challenge but we've neglected this far too long and there will never be a right time in most people's mind.

Anita, good point. Just a little at a time. Heck, if people would do it voluntarily there wouldn't be such an issue but people don't want to change their habits. You can buy 6 reusable grocery bags for $6.00 and if you are crafty you can get them free (at events). I think I'll start giving away 6 reusable bags at each closing of a new home purchase.


Mar 02, 2012 08:14 AM #5
Former Agent
None - Adak, AK

Agents here use the reusable bags to drop-off market reports when they door-knock or when they sponsor events.

Mar 02, 2012 01:12 PM #6
Karen Hawkins, MBA - Langley & Surrey, BC
Royal Pro Real Estate Network - Langley, BC

A very comprehensive report, Cathy, tons of great info!  I use re-usable bags embroidered with my name and logo to drop off my pre-listing info and whenever I drop off client gifts.  They have been, by far, the best promotional gift I've used. 

Mar 02, 2012 01:24 PM #7
Brenda Mayette
Miranda Real Estate Group, Inc. - Glenville, NY
Getting results w/ knowledge & know-how!

Great information, Cathy especially when we all think and learn past what many will share as their knee jerk reaction. I have noticed that the plastic bags have gotten mighty thin. I do prefer the volume & "tidiness" of goods that my canvas bags hold. But those plastic bags are good for walks with Max, our lab.  ;)

Mar 02, 2012 09:30 PM #8
Cathy Criado
Criado Realty - San Antonio, TX
Making Real Estate Profitable

Aimee that's a great idea. I'm glad they are conscientous about trash pollution.

Karen yeah, probably could of shortened it but as you can see, it's a BIG pet peeve so I got long winded. Sounds like a great plan! One of my Facebook fans suggeted that I pass out branded reusable bags at the grocery store. Earth Day is around the corner so I may just do that!

Hey Brenda - That's one good use for them, to hold crap, lol. I use biodegradeable doggie poo bags. The plastics I end up with go to my son's teacher who makes children's purses. They're knitted like yarn into cute bags.  But, I'd just assume not have them at all. Even those will get tossed or lost soon. Thanks for stopping by!

Mar 02, 2012 11:22 PM #9
Joni Bailey
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services - Anderson Properties - Huntsville, TX
Your Huntsville / Lake Livingston Area REALTOR®

I hope that you do and that all the other cities follow! This is a WONDERFUL idea!

Mar 03, 2012 12:34 AM #10
Cathy Criado
Criado Realty - San Antonio, TX
Making Real Estate Profitable

Hey Joni, it seems to be a Texas trend for sure. All the municipalities seem to be talking about it. How many times to you stop at a gas station and they want to BAG your soda and chips? Honestly, is that necessary?  Our fish don't think so. Thanks for the endorsement.

Mar 03, 2012 12:39 AM #11
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Portland, across the bridge, is already no plastic bags. One day, we're sure to follow. I use the canvas bags from Whole Foods and New Seasons. Good for you - getting involved is smart on many levels.

Mar 03, 2012 08:23 AM #12
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents

Good Evening Cathy, I missed your blogs the last week as i was away, the internet just too slow to load AR. What a great blog i get to read right off. I love your explanation and detail regarding the plastic bags and waste. Have a good night

Mar 03, 2012 09:15 AM #13
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

I'm sure it's a great idea, however, I think I would miss the plastic bags a little because I do reuse them for garbage bags.

Mar 04, 2012 10:27 AM #14
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

This is an ecnouraging trend in our country.  Maui county banned them about a year ago and it's been a really good thing.  Grocery stores are now implementing really nice paper bags with handles.  And of course a lot of people learn to take their own bags with them when they go shopping... just keep a bunch in the back seat of the car all the time.

Even if your local laws don't mandate this, it's nice to start doing it anyway (bringing your own bags).  There are some really nice shopping bags to be had.

Mar 07, 2012 06:12 AM #15
Jimmie Napper

I love how you are getting the word out and education people on the effects of plastic bags on our environment. I myself have several reusualbe bags I carry in my car for us and have some that roll up and easily fit into the palm of my hand that are handy to carry in my purse. 

I would like to see one of the large retailers voluntarily pull the single use bags from their stores and pass on the savings they will have in not suppling these bags to the consumer, even thought it is a small savings it would add up over time in more ways then one. That could be a very marketable publicity campaign for a store and hopefully others would follow.  

Apr 24, 2013 02:38 AM #16
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