A diverse coalition of five major organizations and local activists gathered today at the First United Methodist Church, calling in a letter for Eugene City Council to ban single-use plastic bags. Speaking to a room with citizens interested in helping move the effort forward, including Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy, speakers from Environment Oregon, Sierra Club, Bring Recycling, and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters explained the impacts of these bags on storm-drains, recycling centers, and our oceans.
“We’ve built a diverse coalition in Eugene, with over a half-dozen organizations and more than 40 businesses interested in banning plastic checkout bags”, said Dave Mathews, an advocate with Environment Oregon. Environment Oregon is the state’s citizen-funded environment advocacy organization working to ban plastic bags statewide.
Oregonians use 1.7 billion plastic bags every year, according to Mathews. These bags end up floating in the Pacific, creating a toxic soup where they choke and poison over 100,000 marine animals and a million seabirds every year.
Julie Daniel, a representative from Bring Recycling pointed out that “there will be no shortage of plastic bags if we get rid of checkout bags. You will still be able to line your trash and clean up after your pet; there will now be fewer problems for recyclers and our city.”
Fourteen cities in California, two in Washington, and Portland have all banned the bag, and with a handful in Oregon taking action against plastic bags, it is time Eugene takes the lead in tackling this problem. At Last night’s Eugene City Council meeting Councilman Alan Zelenka announced that he would poll the Councilors about the issue. “We are excited to work with the Eugene City Council to create a pragmatic, simple, and effective program which works for Eugene” said Dave Mathews.
The coalition letter mailed today to Mayor Piercy and each of the City Councilors cited the city’s strong commitment to sustainability as a reason to move this effort forward quickly. The letter calls for a coordinated effort involving the public to pass a bag ban, similar to efforts underway in Newport, Corvallis, and elsewhere across Oregon. It also cites the more than 1,000 individual signatures and nearly 50 local businesses who have expressed support for the effort.
One activist dressed up as a “Bag Monster” – wearing 500 plastic bags, which is the average number each American uses every year. After the event many people in the crowed asked how they could help the effort.
“Write to Eugene City Council; sign a petition; call their offices; show them that Eugene is committed to fighting plastic trash”, replied Mathews.