A city councilor is resurrecting a campaign to ban plastic grocery bags in Salem with a motion slated for Monday's meeting.
Councilor Tom Andersen will move Monday "that Council direct staff to research and prepare an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags in the City of Salem," according a city agenda.
Andersen told the Statesman Journal he has been thinking about a plastic bag ban since he joined the council in 2015. "This vote is starting the ball rolling," he said. "I know there’s a whole lot of support for it."
The motion follows a decision by China to stop receiving most recyclables from the Western world. Local garbage haulers have recently warned Salem-area residents of possible fines exceeding $15 for failing to comply with recycling rules, which Marion County tightened in response to China's decision.
Other Oregon cities, including Portland and Corvallis, already have enacted plastic bag bans. Advocates in Bend went before city councilors Wednesday to support a similar ban. Bend spokeswoman Anne Aurand said she expects councilors will take up the issue in the future.
Andersen's motion contains language about a "pass-through fee," which relates to customers who opt to use paper bags. Corvallis retailers, for instance, charge at least 5 cents for customers to haul off groceries in a paper bag.
The motion also mentions "an exemption for safeguarding public health and farmers' markets." The "public health" part has to do with bagging hot foods and meats, for instance, while Andersen said other places with bans have exemptions for farmers' markets.
Previous efforts to ban plastic bags have fallen flat in Salem. Advocacy group Environment Oregon lobbied for a statewide ban during the 2013 legislative session. A similar push that kicked off that year in Salem failed.
Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett, who was a Ward 1 councilor at the time, said on Friday, "I think it's timely to have another discussion."
Bennett said he expects Andersen's motion will move forward next week. "I know there's very strong feelings on both sides," he said. "I want to hear them."
Local advocacy group Salem Community Vision praised Andersen's motion in a Facebook post, writing, "Seems like a no-brainer. China's refusal to take our recyclables because they are littered with plastic bags, among other things, makes this even more timely."
Spokesmen from Fred Meyer and Roth's Fresh Markets did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the proposal.
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