Portland moving to ban single-use plastic bags

The Associated Press /


Published Jul 16, 2011 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

PORTLAND — Plastic shopping bags could be banned at Portland's larger grocery stores and other retailers as soon as Oct. 15, in a move aimed at protecting marine life and recycling machinery.

Mayor Sam Adams proposed an ordinance Thursday that is expected to win City Council approval, The Oregonian newspaper reported.

Adams backed off a bag-ban proposal earlier to give the Legislature a chance to enact a statewide ban, but the bill died.

Critics say the bags are an environmental hazard — for instance, killing sea turtles that mistake them for jellyfish and eat them.

In a statement Friday, Adams called the bags an eyesore and said they cost recyclers “tens of thousands of dollars a month in maintenance and labor to fix the mess.”

Some U.S. cities now outlaw the bags. Whole Foods dropped them companywide in 2008, and Fred Meyer last year expanded a paper-only test to 10 Portland stores.

But some customers like the bags: They're cheaper than paper, don't involve cutting down trees and are convenient for picking up pet waste and other uses. Supporters also note that some are made of biodegradable materials or can be recycled.

Hilex Poly, a major U.S. manufacturer of plastic bags, called Portland's proposed ban expected but “bad public policy.”

“Hilex Poly is committed to working with the recycling industry, policy-makers and other stakeholders to develop a statewide recycling solution — and that's where the company's focus is at this time,” spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor told The Oregonian by e-mail.

Portland's ordinance would exempt plastic grocery bags used for produce, bulk food and meat.

Pharmacies could use the bags for prescriptions to protect privacy. Low-income Portlanders and seniors may be eligible for free reusable shopping bags from the city.

A sponsor of the statewide measure, Democratic state Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton, said a statewide bill is better than a patchwork of local ordinances, but he supports Adams: “I'm for anything that gets those bags off our roads, out of our rivers and off our beaches.”