EUGENE, Ore. - The fight to ban plastic bags is heating up again in Oregon.
Last year, a bill to ban plastic bags failed but now a newly proposed bill would apply to all retailers throughout the state,
The Senate Bill 536 would not only ban plastic bags but also paper bags made of less than 40 percent recycled materials.
Gus Gates of the Surfrider Foundation in Portland said the bill is a step in the right direction to prevent plastic bags from polluting the environment.
“When we all change our consumer behavior, it really has the potential to have a very meaningful impact at reducing plastic pollution from entering the ocean, clogging up our storm drains,” said Gates.
The bill could possibly make Oregon the first state in the nation to adopt a statewide ban on the use of paper and plastic checkout bags.
The ban would also allow the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to slap retailers with fines who are caught distributing plastic bags; prohibit local governments from imposing charges on checkout bags; and repeal the current statute that requires retail establishments that offer plastic bags to also offer paper.
Pharmacies and food establishments would be exempt from the ban.
Keith Christman, Director of Plastic Markets for the American Chemistry Council, said banning bags doesn’t solve the real problem which he said is litter.
“Neither plastic bags or any other litter belongs in the environment. We all must focus on reducing litter in the first place, not banning or taxing products that are fully recyclable,” said Christman.
If the measure passes through the state legislature, the measure could be in effect as early as November 2011.