Bend will ban plastic bags beginning July 1, following a narrow 4-2 vote from the City Council Wednesday night.

Meeting attendees, including a group of seventh- and eighth-grade girls from Pacific Crest Middle School who have spent months lobbying for a bag ban, broke into applause after Mayor Casey Roats cast the deciding vote for the ban. It was a victory for a periodic effort to regulate plastic bags in Bend.

“I have never liked the idea of virtue signaling, but I recognize sometimes leadership has to come from a local level,” Roats said.

Bag bans are already in place in Ashland, Corvallis, Eugene and Portland, and one will take effect in Salem next year.

“We’re not leading the way,” Bend Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said. “We’re following.”

The ban applies to plastic grocery bags only. Bags not included in the ban are those used for bulk items, including fruit, nuts and screws, for wrapping meat, fish, flowers or potted plants, and for holding bakery items or pharmacy prescriptions.

It also won’t affect plastic bags used for prepared takeout food or bags provided by vendors at temporary events such as farmers markets. If a store will suffer an undue hardship because of the ban, City Manager Eric King can exempt that business from the ban for up to a year.

If shoppers forget or choose not to use reusable bags, stores could provide paper bags or thicker plastic bags like the green ones now offered at Newport Avenue Market. However, shoppers will have to pay at least 10 cents a bag. Businesses caught continuing to distribute plastic bags will face fines ranging from $100 for a first offense to $400 for a third offense.

Shoppers who use food stamps or receive benefits through the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program will not have to pay for the replacement bags.

The ban will take effect July 1 and enforcement will begin in January 2020. City staff estimate it will cost $12,000 to $15,000 to advertise the coming changes.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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