Portland's plastic bag ban is now 1 year old; should it be expanded now?
PORTLAND – The plastic bag ban first-year review was delievered to the Portland City Council Wednesday, along with options for expanding the ban.
The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability reported that in the first year of the ban on large grocery stores and retail stores with pharmacies, reusable bag use went up 304 percent, and the use of recycled paper bags went up 491 percent.
The options for the plastic bag ban ordinance include leaving it as it is, expanding it to include all retail stores, and expanding it to all retail stores with a nickel a paper bag charge for paper bags supplied at stores. The $.05 charge is what drew criticism from two commissioners.
“This feels like you’re shifting the focus to include paper bags as part of a problem and I never understood paper bags to be a problem,” said Commissioner Randy Leonard.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman also voice disapproval.
“Paper bags are by and large manufactured employing people in the Pacific Northwest," Saltzman said. "I am taking this opportunity to say I am unequivocally opposed to any type of paper bag fee," said Saltzman.
Mayor Sam Adams said he welcomed the discussion, but added that paper bags were always part of the discussion over increasing the use of reusable bags.
“I was very clear, we were very clear, that both plastic and paper have impacts on the environment they’re different impacts on the environment. The fact that we have local manufacturers and paper bags are recycled is something we’ve talked about and need to keep on the table as we look at next steps,” said Adams.
Northwest Grocery Association President Joe Gilliam said his group, currently most affected by the plastic bag ban, favors expanding it to all retail stores and adding the nickel per paper bag charge.
Gilliam said the cost per store in the first year to provide more paper bags was $46,000, a cost that is passed on to consumers just like other overhead. His association of 155 stores wants the nickel charge, to focus the cost only on those who use paper bags, and to encourage more reusable bag use.
“This concern about increasing costs now… the costs already increased when they banned plastic, this is a chance to get the cost back in order and help the consumer out,” said Gilliam.
At A-Boy Supply in Southwest Portland, the owner can still use plastic bags to bag up purchases. And he hopes the ban doesn’t expand, so he can keep it that way.
“Government mandates are always questionable, when you try to impose something. The market is pretty efficient mechanism of deciding what bag is the right bag,” said Dan Dolan.
Environmental interests are in full support of expanding the plastic bag ban, and encouraging more people to use reusable bags.
“We need to finish the job and ban plastic bags, these terrible thin flimsy bags that wreak havoc on our environment. We want to ban those at the rest of retailers in Portland,” said Environment Oregon State Director Sarah Higginbotham.