By: Julia Deng
ODESSA - City leaders held a special briefing Tuesday afternoon to revisit an issue they've discussed for nearly five years: restricting the use of plastic shopping bags.
Odessa City Council members did not take any official action, but admitted stray plastic bags posed "major health hazards."
According to District 3 representative Barbara Graff, rain water frequently pools in discarded bags and provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying various diseases.
"It's also a place for rodents to live," she said. "It really is an embarrassment and a dangerous hazard, the plastic bags we have everywhere."
District 5 representative Filiberto Gonzales is leading the push for tighter restrictions, but said the city likely would not enforce an outright ban.
"I don't necessarily want to get rid of plastic bags," he told NewsWest 9. "But we need to hear from the community and do something about this problem... It's not just local. It is a state, national and global issue because of how harmful it is to the environment."
More than a dozen Texas cities - including Austin, Laredo and Brownsville - have some type of ordinance or law restricting the use of plastic shopping bags.
Graff proposed measures - similar to those enforced in Austin - that would replace traditional "flimsy" plastic bags with thicker, reusable ones or biodegradable bags.
However, other council members said targeting plastic bags "is not the first step we should take" because they represent only a fraction of the problem.
"If you look around at the trash on the ground, there's not as many plastic bags as there are other types of debris," said District 2 representative Dewey Bryant.
He said heavy duty trash bags, plastic wrapping from cases of bottled water and construction materials also contribute to the landscape of trash throughout Odessa.
Council members ended the special briefing without arrving at any conclusive decisions regarding plastic bag restrictions.
"The mayor has suggested we go to an ad hoc committee," said Gonzales. "We're going to talk there and see what kind of game plan we can come up with... I'm going to set some timelines... and if nothing has been done, we're going to bring it back up."