Discuss: Should Oregon ban plastic bags?

Discuss: Should Oregon ban plastic bags?

The Gazette-Times, Dec. 20, on proposal to ban plastic bags:

It looks as if the writing is on the wall for plastic checkout bags at your favorite grocery store: Grocers and environmental groups are lining up behind a proposed statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.

Under the terms of the proposal, which got an airing last week in Salem, the bags would be banned by November 2011. Paper checkout bags would be available, but you'd get charged a nickel for each bag.

Support from the proposal is coming from the Northwest Grocery Association, Fred Meyer, International Paper, recycler Far West Fibers and a variety of environmental groups. It would appear as if the stars are lining up to have Oregon become the first state to adopt a statewide ban.

The draft proposal would exempt pharmacies, restaurants and other retailers whose primary business is preparing food and drink. It would not apply to non-checkout bags, such as the plastic bags that you find in the produce department.

It also would prevent local governments from enacting their own bans, and that's likely one reason why at least some retailers are lining up in support: Under this proposal, stores such as Fred Meyer wouldn't need to worry about trying to negotiate a crazy patchwork of regulations from community to community.

The proposal also would mandate that paper bags used at checkout stands be made of at least 40 percent recycled content.

The 5 cent charge for paper bags, by the way, is meant to encourage you to switch to reusable bags — and to help stores cover the additional costs incurred by using paper bags.

We won't be sad to see plastic checkout bags go by the wayside. The bags have contributed more than their share to our landfills and are a major factor in the junk that's clogging our oceans.

But it seems to us that legislative action isn't really necessary here: From our perspective, it's only a matter of time before consumers, acting on their own without any coercion (or what amounts to a 5-cent surcharge for each paper bag), drop demand for plastic checkout bags to virtually nothing.

Nevertheless, if the Legislature must act on this issue, we urge it to move quickly. Get it out of the way so that legislators can focus on the truly tough issues facing the 2011 session, such as innovative proposals to ensure that we never forget our reusable grocery bags at home.

Because you know what they say: When plastic checkout bags are outlawed, only outlaws will have plastic checkout bags.