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City of Laredo v. Laredo Merchants Ass'n

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20102
Nos. 16-0748, (Tex., 06/22/2018)

The Texas Supreme Court upheld an appellate court decision prohibiting a city's efforts to ban the use of single-use plastic and paper bags. A retail association argued that an ordinance adopted in 2014 to reduce litter from the bags conflicted with the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act. The appellate court agreed, ruling that a plastic or paper bag is a container or package within the meaning of the Act, the ordinance has a solid waste management purpose and effect, and the city is not authorized by state law to prohibit the sale or use of plastic and paper bags. On further appeal, the city argued that plastic shopping bags did not meet the Act's definition of a "container." It also argued that the ordinance was not a prohibition on solid waste, but merely an attempt to reduce the number of bags being used before being thrown out. But the high court disagreed, ruling that single-use plastic or paper bags used to hold retail goods and commodities for transportation clearly fall within the ordinary meaning of the term "container." Moreover, the ordinance's stated purposes are to reduce litter and eliminate trash, which can only be fairly read as managing solid waste. The court, therefore, upheld the appellate court's decision that the Act preempts the 2014 ordinance.