The big Alabama plastic bag ban “ban” debate. Plastic? Paper? Fabric? Cast your vote here.

The checkout line at the Walmart on Montclair blvd in Eastwood. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

It is the one question every Alabamian is confronted with on a weekly, if not on a daily basis at your local convenience store, grocery store or shopping center.

Plastic or paper?

When shopping, what kind of bag do you prefer?

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Let’s be honest. In Alabama, there was hardly any discussion at all about banning the use of plastic bags until HB 346 – a bill prohibiting local governments from banning the use of plastic bags and containers (that means styrofoam and takeout containers) was proposed in the Alabama legislature.


Well, now it is an issue. The legislation has already passed two committees and may be voted on in the coming weeks.

So, should we ban the ban of plastic bags in Alabama?

Let’s first do a quick survey

First off, is anyone in Alabama NOT using plastic bags?


The only supermarkets we could find is Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. ALDI’s takes it one step further, they don’t give away free bags, you have to buy them.

Sign in the ALDI store in Crestwood Blvd. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Other stores? It’s a … mixed bag. 😉

Target, Publix and Walmart use plastic bags, but they also offer recycling at most locations, even though you may have to send out search teams to find their bins.


Small business-wise, we know there may be many more, but some of the local stores that do NOT offer plastic bags are Sojourns, Sheppard’s Pet Supply and Hollywood Feed.

Plastic pollution is becoming a big deal

Tennessee River Cleanup. Photo from the Tennessee Riverkeeper Facebook page

Earlier this year a recent study declared the Tennessee River among the most plastic polluted rivers in the world .

Plastics have also impacted sea life in Coastal Alabama and have been identified as one of the primary items that are removed during the annual Coastal Cleanup.


Are paper bags the answer?

For wildlife and sea life – yes. But, paper bags are resource intensive. Convenience-wise, the bags can be a problem if you are caught in a rainstorm and they do tend to tear more often than their plastic counterparts so they can’t be reused as often.

What about reusable bags?

Do you own a reusable bag? Generally made of fabric and can we washed, fabric bags make an interesting alternative. But, will you carry them around with you? We want to know.

They are usually more environmentally friendly (do your research on the best bags), long-lasting and prevent litter.


Would you pay for single use bags?

Our latest Bham Nower, Jon Eastwood, recently relocated to Birmingham from the United Kingdom, where he was a recycling professional.

“The UK didn’t ban plastic bags, but since 2015 it’s been mandatory for large businesses (employing over 250 people) to charge 5 pence (7 cents) for each plastic bag. In that time, the number of disposable plastic bags handed out by the 7 biggest grocery chains reduced by 86%. Billions of bags.”

“The bag charge definitely encouraged me to change my habits. I’ve always kept reusable bags in the car, but I now remembered to take them into the store more often as I’d be charged for new ones! When I had to buy some, they would join my reusable bags for next week’s groceries”.

What do you do?

Do you use plastic bags? Paper? Or Reusable bags?

How many bags do you go through each week?


How say YOU?

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.