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Retailers granted exemption from bag ban

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At Callahan's General Store in East Austin, customers are being told about the upcoming single-use bag ban.

"We've been doing everything that's required of us," said Callahan's manager Mike Young.

The store currently gives out large plastic bags to customers, but those bags don't meet the requirements for a reusable bag under the new ordinance.

In January 2012, months before the bag ban was passed, Callahan's ordered about 3,600 bags that cost several thousand dollars. So, the store applied for an exemption and the city has granted them a six-month exemption to get rid of the bags they have left.

"The idea is these bags are filling the landfill right?" Young asked. "So, what do we do with all these bags other than take them to the landfill? And throw away thousands and thousands of dollars."

About a dozen retailers have been granted exemptions from the upcoming ban. Retailers can apply for one of three exemptions:

  • Alternative compliance
  • Hardship (what was granted to Callahan's)
  • Emergency access to single-use

The last exemption was granted to H-E-B. For one year, the Austin H-E-B locations will have single-use bags on hand, away from customers' view, for emergencies. Customers can get as many as needed and $1 will be added to the grocery bill.

"We do understand that some businesses have unique circumstances and might need some time to adjust to the new rules and we have ways to consider working with the business for alternatives," says Lauren Hammond with Austin Resource Recovery.

According to H-E-B spokesperson Leslie Sweet, that money will go toward reusable bag giveaways. None of the money raised by retailers from selling reusable bags goes back to the city of Austin.

Hammond tells FOX 7 that Austin Resource Recovery has received at least 50 exemption applications and about a dozen have been granted.

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