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Bye bye bags

A tech-savvy, zero-waste city: The time has come for Austin to kiss paper and plastic goodbye

For almost a year, the clock has been slowly ticking away towards the impending demise of single-use plastic and paper bags in Austin. Shoppers and retailers have been prepping themselves for the next phase in Austin Resource Recovery’s plan to turn this town into a “Zero Waste” city by 2040.

While implementation of the new ordinance will take effect on March 1, the battle may still rage in the near future over the validity of the City Council’s attempt to regulate consumer packaging despite state code, at least according to a petition filed in court by the Texas Retailers Association

Retailers have already prepared themselves for the inevitable on Friday; Austin shoppers have will have few excuses to let the new ordinance take them by surprise, considering that residents have had the past year to stock up on reusable bags.

The City of Austin has provided outreach to retailers and consumers in the run up to March 1, with plenty of ads and PSAs featuring the new motto reminding shoppers to “Bring It, Austin." The new slogan now has its own brand new, slick website that provides everyone with education on how to adapt to a post-plastic society.

The site provides what you would usually find on any government website, with PDFs and FAQs providing the necessary info for people and businesses. Visitors shouldn’t have difficulty navigating the site, but the real treat is definitely the link to the site’s official Pinterest page.

The Pinterest profile provides a full gallery of ideas for creating reusable bags for shoppers with more of a DIY attitude and who want their bags to reflect their individuality, instead of just buying more each time you forget your bags at the HEB checkout. Whether making bags out of old shirts, coffee bean bags or even a used cat food bag, some of these ideas could take consumer conservation to a whole new level of devotion.

City officials and retailers have put a lot of effort into reminding everyday shoppers to keep bags well stocked and on hand, but shoppers will need to also get into the habit of making sure bags are well cleaned and sanitary for constant use.

It’s a discussion that’s raged across the Internet, because every discussion on the Internet can never be “discussed” but must always be “raged.” Essentially, studies have found that unwashed reusable bags can be the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria, with problems especially arising when consumers use and mix the same bags for carrying raw meat with what they would use for other goods and produce.

While dirty bags can cause problems, they can easily be taken care of with some common sense precautions. The first solution is to designate certain bags for specific purposes, particularly for raw meats and fish. It’s these bags that will require the most attention to regular washing after each trip to the store.

Washing bags will hopefully become part of the routine for most shoppers, and some bags might even include tags that specify how they should be washed. Generally speaking, canvas and cloth bags can just be thrown in your washer and dryer and be fine, while bags primarily made of plastic will need to be soaked and then air dried since they can be damaged in dryers with high heat.

There are plenty of tips floating around out there that can help you prepare for this new reality of shopping, and lucky for you we already have most of the best tips for prepping your new lifestyle.

The end of single-use bags in the city will take some getting used to, but people are driven by their habits and routines, and most people are able to adapt these habits if it’s for a good cause in the long run.

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