Yes, Please, Oregon: Let’s Ban Plastic Bags


Cartoon courtesy of Andy Singer

Cartoon courtesy of Andy Singer

The Oregon legislature is considering a ban on plastic grocery bags.

If the bill passes, single use throw-away bags will be outlawed at all retail establishments.

A similar bill failed last year, partly because the grocery industry was not on board. This time, though, it looks like even the grocery stores are behind the ban.

What’s changed? For one thing, several communities have managed to effectively ban plastic bags. Last November L.A. County banned plastic bags, joining Malibu and San Francisco as places in California that have passed ordinances. In American Samoa plastic bags are now banned, and in European countries, like Ireland, plastic bags have long been taxed by the government, a decision that changed consumer behavior overnight.

Since the bill is sponsored both by Republicans and Democrats, I’m cautiously optimistic that politicians are realizing that we have to make immediate and drastic changes to stop the environmental devastation happening in America and around the world.

What’s wrong with plastic bags? To do that question justice I’d have to write an entire book. But the short version is this: plastic bags are made from petroleum, plastic causes endocrine disruption that hurts our children’s bodies, plastic clogs our waterways and hurts the fish and turtles who live in streams, rivers, and oceans. These bags are ugly, wasteful, and completely unnecessary. (Click over to My Plastic-Free Life if you want to read more about the myriad evils of plastic.)

According to the AP article about the proposed ban, proponents are expecting a fight from, you guessed it, the chemical industry.

I hope the bill becomes law as quickly as possible. There was a time before plastics and there may be a time when plastics aren’t so ubiquitous. Step two: phase out plastic produce bags, plastic wrap, plastic bread bags, and plastic sandwich bags.

Ziploc engineers, are you listening? It’s time to create a reusable plastic-free alternative!

Readers, what do you think? Can Oregon ban plastic bags? What tips do you have to help us all get rid of the unnecessary plastic in our lives?

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , ,

This entry was posted
on Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 at 4:15 am and is filed under social change.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.



25 thoughts on “Yes, Please, Oregon: Let’s Ban Plastic Bags”

  1. Yay Oregon!

    I’m excited that so many people in Chicago use reusable bags for groceries. But NO ONE brings them into Target stores, convenience stores, drug stores, etc. The cashiers there think I’m crazy 🙁 When we lived in Germany, bags cost 5-25 cents (even in the bulk depts), and it was enough to motivate everyone to bring their own.

  2. Jennifer,

    What do you use instead of plastic produce bags? We use some mesh reusable bags for things like apples or potatoes but we still grab plastic ones for stuff that will stay in the fridge. We have some cloth bulk bags too, but never enough.

    My lunch box is almost waste free, but it would be really nice if yogurt would start being packaged in glass. (I lived in Germany for a while too, Em.) Some yogurt companies in countries like Germany use glass jars.

  3. Natalie, we put apples, oranges, potatoes, and even bulk carrots directly into the cart, and then into the bin in the fridge. I do the same with lettuce and spinach (when it’s bound by a twisty tie.) Since we eat it so quickly it doesn’t wilt. For other things–like Brussels sprouts and string beans–I try to remember to bring a mesh bag.

    I’ve bought these items loose before if I forget a bag. The inevitably fall out of the cart! We also have scales at the Co-op where I shop so if I forget a mesh or cloth bag, I can weigh a glass mason jar, write down the tare, and put small loose vegetables in there.

    Here’s another post I wrote about why produce bags aren’t necessary (forgive me, I think it’s something of a rant):

    Our Co-op is now stocking yogurt in glass jars. BUT it’s all the way from Indiana, very expensive, has a plastic top, and isn’t reusable (except as a jar for other stuff. The company isn’t taking the jars back. Grrr.).

    I’ve been buying it anyway (since most companies put WARM yogurt in plastic, the harmful chemicals from the plastic leech into your food.) I’ve also been TRYING to make my own yogurt. The problem is that the kids love it and it gets eaten so quickly I can’t keep up. Plus it’s time consuming. The other day I put raw milk on to scald, went to do some work, and completely forgot about it. The boiling milk filled the house with a lovely aroma but so much milk evaporated (to say nothing of wasting all that gas) that I was furious at myself.

    Dairy companies, are you listening? We consumers want yogurt in REUSABLE glass jars. Now! Please!!

  4. Good luck with the ban. We are trying to ban them in Wellfleet. I already plan to stand on a bridge over Route 6 with a big sign, “Did you remember your tote?” over Memorial Day weekend. I get so emotional when I think about this. When it was brought up at the Selectmen’s meeting last week, the newest Selectman asked, “What will I do with my garbage?” We need to think differently than this woman, reflect on what you mentioned at the top of the post. It is the endocrine disruption that gets me the most. Male sperm are dying. My husband told me today that up in the Arctic somewhere, twice as many girl babies are being born. When are we going to wake up to this crisis? When will our leaders stand up to the chemical industry? The more I read, the more upset I become. The latest book on the subject is a must read: Poisoned for Profit.

  5. I hope it does. I know Pennsylvania will probably be last, but every state that takes initiative sets the stage for more states to do so.

  6. I keep my reusable bags in the car. Most often I remember them in the most common usage (at the grocery store), but I do sometimes forget them in places like malls or other kinds of stores. In that case, I typically just say that I don’t need a bag and walk out with my item and stick it in the car.

    Bags first … then other plastics … seems like it’s EVERYWHERE.

  7. Frankly, I’m surprised that NZ hasn’t banned plastic bags. We are normally ahead of the curve on such things. Why not Oregon? Fingers crossed!

  8. I really hope they ban plastic bags everywhere. I use my cloth bags and, in all seriousness, the few times I forget to bring them I regret it not just because of the earth, but because they’re so much easier to carry!!

  9. Making your own yogurt – that sounds fabulous. Reminds me of the 70s, and then there was this long lull where no one seemed to do it anymore.

    I got some mesh produce bags, but for me the problem is that if I don’t have quite enough, it’s hard to have enough to hold produce in the fridge plus use them for shopping. But maybe I will do what you are doing and put them directly in the bins in the fridge. Good idea!

  10. Some towns in my area have banned plastic bags and I’m so happy about it. I’m surprised it’s not already done in Oregon – it seems like it would have been accomplished long ago. I have a nice collection of cloth totes that I am more than happy to bring into any store with me. And if I forget, I try my hardest NOT to accept a bag if I can carry it out to my car without dropping it, that is!

  11. This is exciting to read about. When we were in England you have to pay to get plastic bags when you shop. It is quite different from here where sometimes it seems cashiers try to use as many bags as possible (putting soap, meat, toiletries, you name into plastic then into reusable bags).

  12. We also buy our produce “naked” and store it that way in the fridge. Here is a comprehensive list of how to store almost any kind of produce without plastic:

    For reusable zip locks for sandwiches and snacks, I like the Graze Organic bags.

    Beth Terry (the blog formerly known as Fake Plastic Fish.)

  13. This made me wonder what we can substitute for plastic garbage bags? The pick up people won’t take it loose.

    AND, in Tucson, they will not take glass for recycling. The cost is more than the proceeds from the reusers. My cupboard fills up with jars that I may reuse, and I know I won’t use the bottles are oddly shaped containers. So what good does it do to buy in glass, if I’m just throwing it away.

  14. Vera, it sucks that you can’t recycle glass. But there are other reasons besides the waste aspect for choosing glass. For one, it’s inert so there’s no danger of toxic chemicals leaching into your food.

  15. I wholly support a plastic bag ban! I also support HIGH taxation on those that take bags – like $1 per bag! That will encourage people to buy reusable bags…

  16. I remember when IKEA stopped carrying plastic bags in the store that was near my house. You either bought a reusable bag or carried your stuff out of the store. I was surprised by how quickly people started bringing their bags (myself included!).

  17. People also need to stop putting plastic-bagged dog poop into the garbage. (I do it every day, sorry.) Neither belong in landfills. Local governments should include pet waste composting in garbage service.

  18. I try to bring reusable bags as much as I can, but many stores in my area don’t seem to welcome them. For instance, using your own bags in self-checkout throws off the weight and then we have to get a cashier to enter some secret code so we can continue checking out. I’m hopeful that Oregon will pass this ban, because that could have a ripple effect on other parts of the country and hopefully end use of plastic bags everywhere.

  19. You wouldn’t want to compost carnivorous animal’s poo due to toxins – but using it to produce methane to power something (like they use some landfills to power buildings with the off-gassed methane) would be awesome!

  20. YES! I’m so excited about this. Even in our green-minded state (OR), I have only seen two people use reusable bags at the grocery store in the past 18 months. TWO! I’m thrilled to give plastic bags the BOOT! Wahoo!

  21. I get the whole thing about saving trees, but I never really understand why they went from paper to plastic way back when. That was the point where they should have pushed people to use their own cloth or mesh bags. That’s what we’ve done for years. We’re food co-opers, though, so we’ve been around that line of thinking since the 1970s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *