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Expand plastic bag ban?

City Council to consider study of options on Wednesday


The City Council will be asked to consider expanding Portland’s plastic bag ban on its one-year anniversary. Options include covering more businesses and requiring them to charge for paper bags.

The council is scheduled to receive a one-year report on the ban on Wednesday. At that time, the council will also be asked to authorize the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to study the expansion options.

The council voted to ban the use of disposable plastic bags in large retail stories on July 17, 2001. One goal was to reduce the number of plastic bags from being thrown away after on use, taking up landfill space or polluting natural environments.

According to the report, since the ban took effect, reusable bag use has increased 304 percent and highly recycled paper checkout bag use has increased 491 percent in the city. The BPS has received only five consumer complaints about retailers not complying with the ban.

Over the past year, a number of jurisdictions have adopted plastic bag bans that cover more businesses than the Portland ban, however.

The Portland ban applies mostly to grocery stores and pharmacies with gross annual sates of $52 million and large retailers over 10,000 square feet that have a pharmacy. In comparison, San Francisco now bans plastic bags at all retailers and will ban them at all restaurants starting next October.

Corvallis will ban plastic bags at all retailers with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees starting in January, and for retailers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees on July 1,2013.

Unlike Portland, some other jurisdictions are also requiring retailers to charge for paper bags. This is intended to encourage more consumers to use shop with reusable bags.

The report asks that BPS study maintaining the existing Portland ban or expanding it to include all retailers and a mandatory charge for paper bags. It lists the pros and cons of the expansions as follows:

• Expand current policy to include all retailers:

PRO: Decreases consumption of single use plastic bags.

CON: Does not necessarily reduce single use bag consumption, as there would be a significant shift to recycled paper bags. This option would also increase cost to retailers and/or customers as customers shift to paper bags.

• Expand current policy to include all retailers and require a five-cent charge on paper bags:

PRO: Promotes use of reusable bags, decreases consumption of single use bags and decreases consumption of recycled paper bags. This option would also offset the increased cost to retailers.

CON: Five cent cost for customers who do not bring their own bag.

The council is scheduled to receive the report at 9:45 a.m. on Oct. 10. It can be found here on the city’s website: http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=50265&a=414738