Oregonians use an estimated 1.7 billion plastic checkout bags every year. Plastic pollution has become a critical problem in our oceans, with as much as 100 million tons now polluting the North Pacific alone. Plastic never biodegrades; it only photo-degrades into smaller and smaller bits, strangling, suffocating and poisoning sea life, including whales, fish and birds. Plastic bags cost municipalities around the state millions of taxpayer dollars in sewer maintenance and recycling facility repair. Plastic bags are also a nuisance in rural communities as they entangle farm equipment and get caught up in fencing. Cities, counties, and countries around the world are implementing bag fees and bans to address this problem. SB 536 would have banned single use plastic checkout bags at all retail outlets in Oregon, unfortunately it failed in the legislature in June 2011.
One major success is that Portland’s city-wide plastic bag ban was passed in November 2011 and took effect in 2012. The ban was expanded on March 1, 2013 and covers retail establishments and food providers with stores larger than 10,000 square feet. The bill is supported by the Northwest Grocery Association, several big chain retailers, environmental groups and others. Retail stores must adhere to the ordinance by October 1, 2013. More about City of Portland bag ban ordinance.
Aside from the use of plastic bags, Recycling Advocates favors an overall ban on single-use bags and has presented its formal written policy to the city council. We also partner with other Oregon environmental groups for this cause.