Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group
Daily Emerald
Betsy Swanback

OSPIRG hosted a “Ban the Bag” event on campus Thursday to bring awareness to the movement designed to ban plastic bags usage from Eugene, gathering 720 signed petitions to present to the Eugene City Council.

Oregonians use 1.7 billion one-use plastic bags every year, averaging more than 400 bags per person. These bags are often discarded, which can harm wildlife on the Oregon Coast and lead to bags ending up in the Pacific Ocean.

Environment Oregon and Surfrider Foundation are working with the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group on the initiative to ban plastic bags. Environment Oregon is a state-based, citizen-funded and member-powered environmental advocacy group and Surfrider is a national organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches.

Zach Mulholland, a member of OSPIRG, was instrumental in bringing the movement to campus.

“We’re here to help show how much support there is within Eugene and on campus for groups like Environment Oregon that are really pushing this state wide,” Mulholland said.

Plastic bags have been banned in many other cities, including Portland and 14 cities and counties across California.

Portland approved the ordinance on July 21 that prohibited plastic shopping bags at checkout stands of major grocers and certain big-box stores. The new rules went into effect Oct. 15.

“We’re sort of looking to Portland as an example because they recently banned the bag as well,” said Sophie Luthin, a member of the Ban the Bag campaign and the ASUO environmental advocate. “And so that was something that once the ban was enacted it was a transition with a lot of outreach to businesses.”

The on-campus event featured play-fighting between the Duck and the Plastic Bag Monster.

The movement is gaining traction in Eugene as 40 local businesses have signed on in support of the ban.

“I think it’s a good idea. In my hometown in Long Beach, Calif., they just passed a thing where if you don’t bring your own bags to the store it costs you an extra 10 cents,” University student Alicia Ly said. “And I think that’s a good incentive to people to bring their own reusable bags. I think that would be a good idea to help the environment.”

One of the local supporters is the David Minor Theater, a theater downtown that shows new releases plus cult classics for people over 21.

“I think it’s a very good idea because of the fact that we need to reduce pollution for the benefit of all of us. We need to stop pollution the oceans, polluting the ground,” David Minor Theater owner Ronny Goldfarb said.

The theater previously served their drinks in plastic cups, but has switched to biodegradable cups that are more eco-friendly. They have also stopped serving their takeout food in plastic bags.

“It seems to me that there’s no reason in the world why Eugene can’t do it,” Goldfarb said. “It is imperative that our city council opens up our eyes, weigh the facts and see that it’s a good idea for all of us. Yes it will be different, and yes it will be a little trying to begin with.”

OSPIRG is hoping to use the signatures to bring awareness to the movement and to sway public opinion.

“We’re meeting with Mayor Kitty Piercy after our event,” Luthin said. “We’re going to talk to her about all of the efforts we are doing in terms of our goals for the campaign and what we’ve already accomplished.”