Oregon Considers Plastic Bag Ban

Going green — By on July 29, 2010 at 10:50 am
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Keeping bags out of waterways may require a plastic bag ban

In recent years, governments have flirted with the idea of banning plastic bags from use by consumers at grocery stores and similar retail outlets.  Relatively “green” Seattle, Washington failed to convince its voters that a tax on plastic bags (20 cents per bag) was a good idea last year.  But when the Oregon Legislature convenes in January 2011, state lawmakers may be considering outlawing the use of plastic bags to carry groceries across the entire state.

What’s really at stake?

To begin with, plastic bags are made from petroleum – you know, the stuff that is floating up on Gulf Coast beaches.  Even though they are cheaper to produce than paper bags, consumers rarely recycle or re-use them. Once they have served their single purpose, they take 500-1000 years to decompose.  And that’s just the bags that make it to the landfill.

Plastic bags are deadly when they find their way into rivers, streams, lakes and the ocean.  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre is a man-made monstrosity, fueled by endless plastic waste that has been carried by ocean currents to an area the size of a continent.  Tiny, floating pieces of plastic are mistaken by wildlife as plankton and ingested.

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We are literally choking on plastic waste in our environment

Oregon certainly would not be the first governmental entity to take action to cut down on plastic waste.  According to a related article:

Australia, South Africa, India, China, Italy, Bangladesh and Taiwan have banned, or instituted partial bans on plastic bags to combat the serious environmental threats they pose. Ireland imposes a tax on each bag, which is another way to slow down their use (after the tax, consumers’ usage dropped 90%). In March 2007, the City of San Francisco was the first major United States city to ban plastic bags, and Oakland soon followed suit

Consider this illustrative video with some startling facts about plastic bag impacts solely in the San Francisco area:

The potential Oregon plastic bag ban has evolved from a narrower, city-wide ban proposed in the state’s major Portland metropolis.  Mayor Sam Adams will be bringing a resolution to the Portland City Council requesting the Oregon Legislature to enact a new law prohibiting major grocery retailers from bagging items in plastic bags, and imposing a 5 cent surcharge on the use of paper bags.  In short – consumers should be prepared to bring their own re-usable bags to the store, or pay more.

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Re-useable tote bags - so much more hip than plastic!

My opinion?  I shop for a family of 6, and we live in Oregon.  I have a stash of re-usable bags in the back of my car (probably nearing 15 or so).  I bring them in when I shop, and after I unload the groceries, back into the trunk they go!  Its easy, convenient, and more groceries fit in a single tote bag than a series of plastic bags, too!

Will a plastic bag ban require us to alter our habits?  Of course!  But I’m old enough to remember when seat belts and bicycle helmets were not required by law either.  You get used to it.  And it feels so much better not to be wasteful.

What do you think about the potential Oregon plastic bag ban?

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  1. Jo Dean says:

    LOL, dont they have anything better to do??


  2. Freebies says:

    Yes! All Plastic Bags should be banned in the U.S. I re-use them at my house, but it hurts the environment so bad that it wouldn’t be worth it.

  3. Veaotch says:


    What like trolling comment sections?

  4. Thom says:

    I love my reusable canvas grocery bags. Not only am I not contributing to the landfill, but they’re a heck of a lot stronger than those molecule-thin paper bags or plastic bags they hand out. Plastic bags won’t recycle at all; they clog the automated sorting machines.

  5. Thomas says:

    I hope you’re enjoying all the additional exposure to nasty bacteria that the “reusable” bags do for you.

    There is something called “thermal depolymerization”. The answer to the bag problem. And we get more fuel in the process – and fewer landfills.

  6. I thought wildlife would have been able to tell the difference between plankton and plastic

  7. Johnny says:

    Its never to late, good to see the snowball started rolling. Its a waste of energy to make bags and throw em away after one use just simple logic for me anyhow.


  8. reusablebagger says:

    I totally agree with getting rid of plastic bags! I have a stash of reuseable bags myself! Also its nice to know that the handles are less likely to snap while carrying heavy items and having your grocerries crash to the ground in the middle of a parking lot. Not such a fun thing.

  9. drea says:

    Ok, but then you need to go a step further and CHARGE for paper bags. SF has a “plastic bag ban” that is only for grocery stores… the take out places and little produce stands still put out tons. If you want it to work, people need to pay for their bags. $1 per bag. That way, we will remember to bring our reusable bags. Right?

  10. John says:

    This law shows that our lawmakers across the US have nothing better to do but inconvenience busy families.

  11. As important as getting rid of plastic in our environment is not giving environmental improvement a bad name and “bans” will not help on that front, but encouraging a different type of plastic bag may be more palatable. I good compromise might be that shops are encouraged or forced to use biodegradable bags instead. Yes, they cost considerably more but then businesses would use them as sparingly as possible and encourage folks to use reusable.

  12. Stephanie says:

    Hi Drea, I believe that one of the alternatives for the proposal is to charge for paper bags. I agree that it would be a good thing to help people “remember” to bring in the reusable bags.

  13. Tom says:

    Screw this. I bag at a grocery store, and paper bags are awful to bag with, and those re-usable bags? I want to burn them. I want to burn them all….

  14. I absolutely love the video! Let me know if you would like to do a link exchange with my blog at http://recycle.reusethisbag.com


    Douglas Lober

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