If Oregon Senate Bill 536 passes, Oregon will be the first state to completely ban single-use plastic bags. Over 1 billion single-use plastic bags are used every year in the state, and the ban would bring an end to various 5-cent plastic bag fees and bans in smaller cities or counties across the state by November of this year. In the bill, single-use plastic bags would be completely banned and consumers would have the choice of bringing their own reusable bags for shopping or paying a 5-cent fee for a recycled paper bag, which decomposes faster and the increased demand for which would create jobs in the state’s timber industry.
Stores in violation of the ban would be fined up to $250, and people eligible for food stamps would not have to pay for reusable bags. Lobbyists and executives from various organizations, including plastic manufacturers and grocery chain operators, have been present at forums across the state and in the media to speak for or against the ban, including grocery association members who have said that a complete, state-wide ban would be favourable to bans and fees that vary by city and county.
One recycling company was quoted recently saying that one-third of their total costs come from removing clogs in machinery caused by plastic bags. Opponents are proposing promoting recycling of plastic bags as opposed to banning the bags. Some are opposing the bill not because of business interests, but because they don’t support a government ban when personal responsibility is all that they think it would take to persuade people to use reusable bags.
In the past, a similar ban failed to gain support because the grocery industry was concerned with the higher costs of providing reusable bags and recyclable paper bags, but the proposed 5-cent fee has proven to be more successful in winning their support this time around. The bill is currently in the early stages, having been introduced in January and scheduled for public hearings this month.
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