COPPERAS COVE — Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful will start concentrating efforts to educate residents about recycling after the council dropped a possible ordinance outlawing plastic bags.
“I think educating is absolutely going to help,” said Silvia Rhoads, the executive director of Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful. “When we bring awareness to something then (people) start to pay attention, and I think people are willing to find out what their options are.”
Rhoads said while the organization has provided information to prevent litter and promote recycling, it has never focused on plastic bags.
Its educational efforts are coming after council members Tuesday agreed in a workshop discussion not to implement or investigate the possibility of having a city ordinance to prohibit or limit the issue of plastic shopping bags.
Councilman Jim Schmitz suggested the council drop the issue in fear of offending business owners who probably need to use the bags to operate at cheaper cost. He also recommended the city not spend any money to educate residents about issues the litter can cause, but allow Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful to do so on the city’s government access channel.
“It is sort of like shovelling sand against a hurricane,” Councilman Jim Smith said about the issue.
The council’s decision was made after seeing results from a city survey.
Of the 268 people who took the online survey, about 44 percent said they would support a regulation that restricts plastic bags, while 55 percent said they wouldn’t.
“It is pretty close to what I would say is 50/50,” said City Manager Andrea Gardner.
In the survey, more than 35 percent of participants said they didn’t care about the effects of the litter on the environment.
But more than 80 percent admitted to knowing they could recycle the shopping bags, and more than 52 percent said they use reusable bags.
Plastic bags are indeed a litter problem in Copperas Cove, Rhoads said. When Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful conducts its clean up, shopping bags make up about a quarter of the litter, if not more. It also takes hundreds of volunteer hours to collect materials off roadsides and city waterways, she said.
“There are some people that don’t think there is a problem. ... But if you get a chance when you are stopped at a light, look around you and you will see a bag flying in the wind or sitting somewhere,” Rhoads said.
During the council workshop, Gardner suggested several ideas, including conducting public hearings and meetings with local businesses to see what affects the ordinance might have, but the council decided not to pursue the issue.
Councilman Danny Palmer, who introduced the idea of a resolution, but was not at the workshop Tuesday, said he wished the decision would have been different.
“I have a responsibility to take care of my children and my children’s children,” Palmer said, noting the increasing trash going into landfills and environmentally damaging roadside litter.
“Everything starts somewhere,” he said. “The number one complaint is about solid waste’s cost increasing and we as a city have to make an effort that would help save the earth and save money.”
Gardner said the city would pursue making some educational efforts for cleaning up the plastic bags.