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Austin businesses prepare for bag ban

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Businesses are preparing for the future bag ban that begins next year.

Wednesday morning restaurants and bag manufacturers met with city staff to voice their concerns and get some answers.

The plastic bags that the city is requiring businesses to use are seven times more expensive than the ones they are currently using. Businesses are working to find ways to comply while still keeping customers happy.

Carter Hobbs with County Line Barbeque was one of several restaurant and grocery representative at City Hall for a crash course in the new ordinance.

"In any type of new regulation there are going to be questions," Hobbs said. "Prepared food is kind of a special item because you can't really carry it well in a paper bag because it's liquid."

The ordinance will exempt any liquid carry out items like BBQ sauce or soup. But for other take-out foods they will have to use either 4 millimeter plastic bags or paper bags that are made of at least 40 percent recycled material and must have handles.

Ed Von Doersten from bag manufacturer Inno-Pak says some of his clients could suffer.

"If you are using a single use bag to a multi-use bag, the cost increases significant to our customer so the question is what do they look out as alternatives? Do they go to paper or some other alternative bag or do they pass that on to a consumer?" Doersten said.

He says a reusable bag could cost six to eight times more than the single use bags. But if consumers get used to the idea of bringing their own bags, it could be a win-win for both.

"In an essence for some of the mass retailers and supermarkets it could actually lower the overall cost because those bags single use bags have been provided at no cost," Doersten said.

But that could take some time. It's why the city justifies spending $850K on a public-education campaign for the upcoming 2013 fiscal year. The City Council will consider approving additional funds for FY2014.

"As long as the businesses make a good faith effort we are going to focus first on education and outreach really giving all the opportunities to businesses to comply with ordinance understand the ordinance," Jessica King of Austin Resource Recovery said.

Otherwise they could face some stiff penalties. Fines could cost businesses anywhere from $200 to $1,000 per offense per day.

For more information about the bag ban click here.

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