Corvallis Bans the Bag, Eugene to follow?

Have you heard the good news? The city of Corvallis has just joined Portland in banning single-use plastic bags at the checkout stand! As you may recall, OLCV, as well as Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) partner organizations like the Surfrider Foundation, Environment Oregon and Sierra Club worked hard last year to ban the bag in Portland. Soon after, the race to be the 2nd city in the state to ban the bag began. Newport, Corvallis and Eugene all began looking at bag bans of their own. 

Let’s be clear: the road has not been easy. In 2011, the Oregon Conservation Network worked hard in the legislature on a priority to ban the single-use checkout bags throughout Oregon. Unfortunately, the legislature was unsuccessful in passing the bag ban: the American Chemistry Council came in strong to lobby against the ban, and it worked. But we knew that this was a critical issue with community support, so we began working with organizations on the local level, and we are starting to see exciting results.

OLCV is now working hard with partner organizations to continue the bag-ban momentum in Newport and Eugene.  In Eugene, the city has just released a survey for both retailers and consumers to give feedback to the Eugene City Council, who will be taking action on a draft ordinance at their July 23rd work session. You can take action in Eugene by filling out the survey , and/or emailing the city council to let them know you support a ban on plastic checkout bags, as well as a small fee on paper bags to encourage reuse and dramatically lower dependence on ANY single use bag usage all together. 

Why ban the bag? Well, there are many reasons. Probably the biggest reason is the health of our waterways and oceans. Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide; it compromises up to 90% of floating marine debris. And plastics do not biodegrade, they photo-degrade, which means they break down into small particles that persist in the ocean and absorb toxins.  These particles are then mistaken as food by all kinds of marine life.  Plastic bags are also very difficult to recycle. According to the EPA, only 4.3 percent of all plastic grocery checkout bags in the US were recycled in 2010, down almost 2 percent from 6.1 percent the previous year. They interfere with the operation of Oregon’s recycling facilities, getting stuck in machinery, and adding expense for recyclers.

It is estimated that Oregonians use about 1.7 billion plastic checkout bags each year, equaling about 444 per person. But with leadership from Portland and now Corvallis banning the bag, we hope to see those numbers drop.  We applaud Corvallis for taking the ban one step further by adding a small fee to the use of paper bags, to encourage the transition from single use bags to reusable bags.

Questions about getting involved in helping ban the bag in Eugene and Newport, or in other areas of the state?  Contact Ashley at ashley@olcv.org

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