Plastic bag opponents kicking off campaigns

Plastic shopping bag opponents are kicking off campaigns in cities around Oregon after the failure of a statewide bag ban bill in this year’s legislative session.

The effort in Salem begins Wednesday with a visit from a “Bag Monster” and a free public screening of the documentary “Bag It.”

Similar events were held in Bend, Ashland, Lake Oswego, Beaverton and Tigard this month.

Oregonians use about 1.7 billion single-use plastic bags each year, according to Environment Oregon, which is leading the effort.

Some of those bags find their way into the ocean, killing sea turtles, sea birds and marine mammals that mistake them for food.

“The plastic bag in particular is extremely challenging to wildlife,” said Sarah Higginbotham, state director of the environmental advocacy group.

Bag ban opponents, which helped defeat a statewide ban this year, say plastic bags are easily recycled, provide jobs and are the most sanitary way to transport groceries.

In fact, plastic bags are the environmental choice, generating 80 percent less waste than paper bags, the American Progressive Bag Alliance says on its website.

Portland, Corvallis and Eugene already have some form of a plastic bag ban.

In Salem, about 800 people already have signed a petition asking the City Council to ban disposable plastic bags from the checkout at stores, Higginbotham said.

City Councilor Laura Tesler said she’ll work to educate her fellow councilors about the issue.

“I’m a scuba diver. For a long time, I’ve dived a lot of places all over the world and I keep seeing these plastic bags,” Tesler said. “I’m really concerned.”

Oregon PeaceWorks, the Audubon Society of Salem, and the Marys Peak Group of the Oregon Sierra Club are supporting the effort.

So are local businesses LifeSource, The Governor’s Cup Coffee Roasters and Salem Summit Company.

“We have never used plastic bags,” said Michelle Suess, LifeSource sustainability coordinator. “We only ever have used paper bags and encourage customers to use their reusable bags.”

The Northwest Grocery Association, which represents large grocery stores such as Safeway, Fred Meyer and Albertson’s, is backing local bag bans, Higginbotham said.

Source: The Statesman Journal

July 30, 2013, (503) 399-6779 or follow at