FAQs - Shoppers

Austin’s Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance does not ban plastic or paper bags. Instead the ordinance regulates the types of bags that can be provided by businesses to customers at checkout. The goal is to offer customers bags that can be reused many times and to encourage customers to reduce waste by bringing their own bags when they shop. Thin, single-use plastic bags are a significant source of litter, contribute to flooding by clogging storm drains and creeks and remain in the ground in landfills for hundreds of years.

Thin plastic bags are a challenge to recycle in the City’s residential recycling program because they get tangled in the equipment used to process mixed recyclables. Many Austin grocery stores collect and recycle plastic bags. Look for the specially marked containers placed at the front of the stores. Also, many schools in Austin have organized plastic bag recycling projects. Check with a nearby school to see if you can drop off and support their efforts.

The Bring it Austin calendar includes events and locations where you can pick up a free reusable bag.

Yes. You will still be able to purchase packages of multiple plastic bags at grocery stores and other retailers that you can use to line trash cans or other purposes.

The Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance applies to all businesses that provide carryout bags to their customers, including grocery and convenience stores, restaurants, hardware stores, department stores, bookstores, sporting goods stores, gift shops and other types of retailers. There are some exemptions to the requirements for certain businesses.

You can send an email to the City of Austin or call 3-1-1 if you think a business is not complying with the carryout bag rules. The City wants to work with businesses that need assistance with implementing the ordinance, using penalties only as a last resort for businesses that do not make a good faith effort to comply with the rules.

Even though paper bags are recyclable and more readily biodegrade in the environment, they have a significant environmental impact in their manufacturing and distribution. Paper bags with handles are more likely to be reused. Getting in the habit of bringing reusable bags with you whenever you shop is a more sustainable solution for reducing waste.

Bags used for carrying food should be cleaned regularly, especially bags that are used to carry meat, fish and produce items. When using reusable bags, shoppers should be careful to separate raw foods from other food products. It is also recommended that you bag meat, poultry and fish in produce bags (which are not affected by the ordinance) before placing these items in a reusable bag. You should also not use the same bags for carrying food that you use for other purposes, such as carrying books or gym clothes.

Keep bags clean by washing cloth bags and wiping other bags with a sponge and mild soap. Follow the washing instructions on the bag’s tag if you’re unsure how to clean your bag.

No. Customers are encouraged to bring any reusable bag with them to carry out items.