Texas Supreme Court strikes down Laredo’s plastic bag ban, likely ends Austin’s

Eilish O'Sullivan

The Texas Supreme Court struck down a Laredo ban on single-use carry out plastic bags on Friday. The decision is likely to affect about a dozen other cities’ bans across Texas, including Austin’s. 

The Laredo ordinance conflicted with Texas law, according to the court’s opinion, which was handed down by Chief Justice Hecht in a unanimous decision. 

“The Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act … provides that ‘(a) local government … may not adopt an ordinance … to … prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law,’” the opinion said.

The City of Austin enacted its own ban on single-use carry-out plastic bags in 2012. The ordinance regulates the types of bags distributed by Austin businesses, and encourages Austinites to use reusable bags, according to the City of Austin in an overview of the ordinance. 

“The City Law Department is reviewing this decision to determine how it might impact Austin’s regulations,” said city spokesperson David Green in an email. “The City’s single-use bag ordinance has been in place since 2012 and has served as a model for engaging stakeholders to develop effective local legislation.”

In a news release, Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, called the ruling a disappointment.

“Plastic pollution is harming wildlife, marring the beauty of our cities, and threatening our health, safety and economy,” Metzger said. “Nothing we use for five minutes should pollute our environment for hundreds of years. We call on major retailers, like HEB and Wal-Mart, to continue observing the ban in these cities and ask the Legislature to remove the preemption statute.” 

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed his support for the ruling in a statement. Paxton also told cities with existing bans, such as Austin, to reconsider. 

“I hope that Laredo, Austin, and any other jurisdictions that have enacted illegal bag bans will take note and voluntarily bring their ordinances into compliance with state law,” Paxton said in the statement. “Should they decline to do so, I expect the ruling will be used to invalidate any other illegal bag bans statewide.”