New Year, new law: statewide ban on single-use bags goes into effect

For Immediate Release

Beaverton-- A new law that bans single-use carryout bags across the state of Oregon went into effect with the New Year. Today, a group of lawmakers and environmental advocates came together to celebrate. 

“We brought this policy forward because single-use bags have a negative impact on our environment, cause economic issues and a consistent, state-wide policy was needed versus city by city,” said State Representative Janeen Sollman (HD-30) and a Chief Co-Sponsor of House BIll 2509. “Banning the single-use retail bag is a critical move to further reduce our consumption of plastic and I am proud to have been a part of this work.”

“These bags hang around for a thousand years --  they end up flittering in trees, dancing around the countryside and polluting the most amazing coastline in the world,” said State Senator Mark Hass (SD-14) and a Chief Co-Sponsor of House Bill 2509. “Finally, Oregon has said no more.”

“It wasn’t too long ago that bringing your own reusable bags to the grocery store was unheard-of,” said State Representative Carla Piluso (HD-50) and a Chief Co-Sponsor of House Bill 2509. “Now Oregonians are increasingly aware of the impact their actions have on wildlife and the environment. This legislation going into effect today is simply an additional step towards protecting the beautiful state we all love.”

Every day, Americans throw away millions of single-use plastic bags, and it’s estimated that Oregonians alone use more than 1 billion plastic bags each year. They are one of the most common single-use plastic items found in the environment.

"As our plastic pollution crisis grows, so does the appetite of Oregonians to curb our contributions to the problem,” said Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager with Surfrider Foundation. “Following the lead of 17 Oregon cities with local bag bans and dozens more underway, the statewide ban is an easy step to reduce plastic pollution, improve waste management and encourage an Oregon ethos for shopping with reusable bags."

“Nothing we use for ten minutes should pollute the environment for hundreds of years,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, state director with Environment Oregon. “It’s exciting to see Oregon take this important step to reducing plastic waste and make our state cleaner and greener.”

“An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enters the marine environment every year - roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the oceans every minute,” said Tara Brock, pacific counsel with Oceana. “Plastic bags are frequently found in the stomachs of whales and sea turtles. That’s why we’re thrilled that Oregon is leading the way with one of the strongest policies on single-use carryout bags in the country and helping protect our precious ocean resources.”

Not only are plastic bags harmful for the environment, but they pose a real financial burden on Oregon recyclers as well.

“Plastic bags are a serious problem for recycling facilities” said Rosalynn Greene, the Association of Oregon Recycler’s Legislative Chair.  “They get caught in machinery, which causes costly shut-downs of sorting lines to cut the bags out of the equipment. If the plastic bags do not get sorted out, they can also lower the value of the recyclable material. We are very hopeful this new policy will strengthen Oregon’s recycling industry by reducing processing costs and reducing waste.”

The new law is one of the strongest of its kind in the country. It prohibits retail stores and restaurants from providing single-use bags, but allows them to provide recycled paper bags or reusable bags to customers. At retail stores, the bags come with a fee of at least five cents, which is intended to help retailers recoup some of the additional cost and give consumers an incentive to make the switch from single-use bags to reusable ones.

“We are very supportive of the new statewide ban on single-use bags, and the associated environmental benefits,” said Athena Petty, sustainability program manager at New Seasons Market. “While changing shopping habits can be difficult, we hear from our customers that bag fees help motivate them to bring reusable shopping bags, and we offer additional incentives including bonus Neighbor Rewards points and an opportunity to donate or keep a bag credit when they bring their own reusable shopping bags. If customers forget, New Seasons will be saving the fees from paper bags to fund sustainability initiatives.”

“The goal to reduce and reuse is important and supported by Oregon members of the Northwest Grocery Association, but the transition will not come without the need for incentives to gently remind and encourage consumers to bring their reusable bags and keep the cost of transition to a minimum for both the grocery store and its patrons,” said Shawn Miller with the Northwest Grocery Association (NWGA). “NWGA is distributing 50,000 free reusable bags statewide at a variety of grocery stores starting January 1st to kick-off the ban and remind consumers to reduce and reuse.”