The Newport City Council decided Monday night to draft a city ordinance banning the distribution of single-use plastic bags, after hearing overwhelming support from citizens demanding that Newport take action against plastic ocean pollution. Like Portland, the city of Newport passed a resolution last fall supporting a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. Without a solution from Salem last June, cities are now moving one-by-one to pass local bans.
“Single-use bags never decompose in the ocean," according to testimony submitted by Environment Oregon, the state’s citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. “As they tear into smaller and smaller pieces they leach toxins into the surrounding water, and are often consumed by marine wildlife.”
The state’s environmental advocacy organization explained “dozens of coastal birds have been found with stomachs full of plastic, starved to death.” Volunteers from Environment Oregon were in attendance, among the room full of supporters.
Of the nearly 20 people who spoke last night, not a single person opposed the ban. Citizens discussed a range of issues, from storm drain and ocean pollution, to the importance of the keeping coasts healthy in Newport. The message was overwhelmingly clear: Newport should not accept any action short of a complete bag ban.
Environment Oregon released a report “Oregon Takes Action: Efforts Across the Globe to Fight Ocean Pollution”, detailing the work undertaken by nearly 80 governments around the world to fight plastic ocean pollution. The report finds that bans on the distribution of plastic bags have been the most effective tool for reducing plastic bag pollution.
Local activists have been drumming up support for the ban for weeks, with 18 people speaking up and nearly sixty people in attendance. The local chapter of Surfrider, an environmental group dedicated to protecting oceans and coasts, submitted a list of nearly 50 local businesses supportive of the bag ban, and echoed the positive impact this action will have on our coasts and oceans.
Newport is the latest city in Oregon to proactively engage in a discussion about banning plastic bags;over a dozen communities in California and a handful in Washington have passed their own local bans. City officials in Eugene, Lake Oswego, and elsewhere in Oregon have also talked about local bag bans.
Monday’s meeting ended with a call for city staff to draw up an ordinance to be passed in the coming months. At this rate, it is only a matter of time until Newport lists itself among the cities in a post-plastic-bag world.
The full audio of the hearing can be found on the Newport City website.
Environment Oregon's report, Oregon Takes Action: Efforts Around the Globe to Fight Ocean Pollution can be found here online.