Editorial: Bag ban not the right focus for city of Bend

Published Jan 26, 2013 at 04:00AM

The city of Bend faces big issues in the months ahead. Water, sewer and stormwater systems all are in need of expensive tuneups. Payments to the state’s Public Employees Retirement System are skyrocketing. Revenues are tight and growing tighter.

Meanwhile, local stores continue to use plastic bags for everything from groceries to takeout food, and Bend Mayor Jim Clinton says he wants to do something about that. Surely given the weight of the other issues, a plastic bag ban can be set aside.

In fact, there are good reasons to stay out of the plastic bag ban business, no matter what else is on the City Council’s plate.

For one thing, the bags are easily recyclable. Nearly every grocery store in Bend has plastic-bag recycling stations at every entrance, clearly marked and available even for bags from competitors’ stores. Rather than ban the bags, the city’s effort, if any, should be on encouraging recycling and letting shoppers decide for themselves what they should lug their groceries home in.

Then there’s this: Though supporters of bag bans do so in the name of the environment, the facts on the matter are relatively few and often contradictory. According to The New York Times, good research into the impact of the bags on everything from landfills to the emission of greenhouse gases to the job market is sketchy, at best. A scientist like Clinton should recognize that without good, solid information, a ban doesn’t make much sense.

Finally, there’s the state effort to ban the bags. State Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland, already has introduced a bill for the 2013 Legislature that would ban not only plastic but single-use paper bags under most circumstances.

We don’t like the idea of a ban, local or statewide. But it’s the number of serious, even critical, problems facing the city that should persuade Clinton and others that now is not the time to take on plastic bags. Until those are resolved, we’d prefer to see the City Council focus on them.

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