SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon grocers and environmental groups are already lining up to support a proposed statewide ban on single-use plastic checkout bags next year.
The proposed ban would take effect by November 2011 and require at least a nickel charge on recycled paper checkout bags, The Oregonian reported. The charge is designed to help stores recover the cost of the paper bags and encourage shoppers to switch to reusable bags.
Supporters at a Wednesday hearing in Salem included the Northwest Grocery Association, retailer Fred Meyer, paper-bag maker International Paper, recycler Far West Fibers and environmental groups, including Surfrider Foundation, Environment Oregon and Willamette Riverkeeper.
Mike Ellis, Fred Meyer's president, told the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources that paper bag use soared sixfold after the grocer eliminated plastic checkout bags at its Hawthorne store in Portland in 2008.
A subsequent pilot ban at 10 stores in Portland also drove up paper bag use, he said.
"It's critical that there be just one uniform law across the state," Ellis testified. "And it's critical the law includes incentives for people to switch to reusable bags."
Opponents, including the American Chemistry Council, say claims of damage from low-cost plastic bags are exaggerated and communities can do more to recycle them. They also refer to charges on single-use bags as a "tax."
If the proposal clears the Legislature next year, Oregon would likely be the first state to adopt a statewide ban. State Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, has led the effort, with support from Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Central Point.
The draft proposal comes after years of wrangling over plastic bags. It would exempt pharmacies, restaurants and other shops whose main businesses is preparing food and drink. It would not apply to non-checkout bags, including plastic bags used in produce sections.
But the ban would apply to all other retailers, including department stores and convenience stores. It would also bar local governments from enacting their own bans, as Portland considered earlier this year.
Paper bags would have to have at least 40 percent recycled content to be used at checkout.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.