Paper or Plastic?
Maybe now, we can start thinking about retiring the phrase "paper or plastic".
After many years of educating, organizing and solid grassroots activism, last week Mayor Sam Adams
and Commissioners voted unanimously to ban plastic check out bags in the city of Portland. Adams declared this the first small step, in joining with cities across the nation and even countries world wide to promote reusable bags and reduce our consumption of single use plastics.What does the ordinance do?
The ordinance prohibits the largest generators of single-use plastic checkout bags-large grocery stores and retail pharmacies-from distributing these bags to their customers at point of sale. The policy also promotes the use of reusable checkout bags, and provides reusable bags free-of-charge to qualifying low-income residents and seniors.
The measure would require retailers to use only recycled paper bags,
compostable plastic bags or reusable bags when checking out customers.
Violators would pay $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second
violation within the same calendar year and $500 for any subsequent
violation within the year.
Plastic bags, designed to be used for only minutes, last hundreds of years in the ocean and never fully break down.
Why are governments across the globe banning single-use plastic checkout bags? Why does this issue matter? An estimated 100 billion checkout bags made from oil and natural gas are used each year in the United States. Often used only once, checkout plastic bags wreak havoc on local recycling facilities, which costs garbage/recycling ratepayers more money. Plastic bags also wreak havoc on the environment and threaten the human food supply.
▪ Plastic bags are difficult to recycle: according to the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, less than 5 percent of all single-use checkout plastic bags are actually recycled.
▪ On a local level, plastic bags contaminate material that is processed through the City’s curbside recycling and composting programs.
▪ Plastic bags jam recycling machinery and cost local material recovery facilities between $30,000 and $40,000 every month. Far West Fibers, which handles a significant amount of the recycling from the Portland metropolitan region, estimates that 25 to 30 percent of total labor costs result from shutting down the recycling machinery and manually removing the jammed plastic bags and film. Far West Fibers has indicated that this process is the primary contributing cause of job-related injuries.
▪ Plastic bags, designed to be used for only minutes, last hundreds of years in the ocean and never fully break down.
▪ On a global level, plastic pollution kills wildlife that mistakes it for food or becomes entangled. Single-use plastic checkout bags in our waterways damage marine systems and enter the marine food web.