Plastic Pollution, Bag Bans
June 11 2019

Oregon Passes Comprehensive Statewide Plastic Bag Ban

Following the passage of the Sustainable Shopping Initiative (House Bill 2509), a bill eliminating single use plastic carry out bags, Oregon has become the next state to pass statewide legislation addressing this chronic source of plastic pollution. Through the strong support of an alliance of business, environmental and waste management professionals, the bill passed the Senate with a vote of 17-12 and was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown on June 20th. With the inclusion of restaurants, Oregon’s Sustainable Shopping Initiative is set to be one of the most comprehensive bag ban policies in the nation and represents a significant plastic pollution victory for our ocean and beaches. 

 

The Sustainable Shopping Initiative is designed to reduce plastic pollution and encourage Oregonians to use reusable bags. Under the bill, stores may no longer offer thin plastic bags at check-out, but may offer recycled paper bags with a minimum 5 cent pass-through charge. Thicker reusable plastic bags will also require a 5 cent pass-through charge. The charge incentivizes the public to bring their own bags and also helps smaller retail shops cover the cost of the more expensive paper. The policy approach has been established in hundreds of cities around the country and has proven highly effective when analyzed as a statewide policy. The bill covers all retail establishments and restaurants in Oregon. Participants in food assistance programs are exempt from the pass-through charge and customers who bring their own reusable bags will also not pay any charge.

This bill built off of the 17 existing local ordinances – covering nearly 40% of Oregonians – already in place in Oregon to address plastic pollution and recycling contamination due to plastic bags.

"With so many city ordinances currently in place, we heard overwhelmingly that uniformity and predictability for businesses across this state was critical,” said the bill's chief sponsor Representative Janeen Sollman. We carried this policy forward to address the environmental and economic impacts as well. We brought together a variety of stakeholders, including Hillsboro Youth Advisory Council members, who developed a successful, collaborative policy in Hillsboro, one we can all be proud of."

“The passage of the Sustainable Shopping Initiative makes Oregon a national leader in the fight to protect our environment from plastic pollution”,  said Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager with the Surfrider Foundation. “This is an important step for protecting our environment while encouraging an Oregon ethos for shopping with reusable bags.”

Single-use plastics are polluting our environment and harming wildlife in the ocean, in rivers, and on our surrounding lands. Plastic bags are one of the top items found on beach and highway cleanups in Oregon, and fewer than 8% of them get recycled. Plastic has been documented in nearly 700 species of marine life, including gray whales found washed up in the Pacific Northwest. Plastic bags also cause operational and contamination problems at recycling and compost facilities by clogging machinery.

“The Association of Oregon Recyclers (AOR) supports House Bill 2509 to advance waste prevention and reduce the impact of plastic shopping bags on Oregon's recycling system,” said Ali Briggs-Ungerer the Chair of the Association of Oregon Recyclers. “Plastic bags placed in home and business recycling bins get tangled in the equipment used to sort and process materials. This poses hazards to workers and costly disruptions at recycling facilities when equipment has to be turned off to remove bags.”

Above, Coos Bay chapter activists advocate at a local parade. Surfrider Foundation Oregon Chapters have been addressing the impacts of marine debris for many years, leading hundreds of beach cleanups, and working on source reduction policies by supporting local single-use plastic bans in various communities. Surfrider worked closely with partners including the recycling and waste management industry and the Northwest Grocers Association to pass this policy.

“The Northwest Grocery Association supports the passage of HB 2509, which creates a sustainable shopping policy in the State of Oregon,” said Shawn Miller with the Northwest Grocery Association. “This policy represents a win-win for the environmental and business communities by reducing the use of single-use plastic and promoting the use of reusable bags.”

The Surfrider Foundation Oregon Chapters applaud the leadership of Representative Janeen Sollman (HD-30) in addressing this issue, and appreciate all of the votes in support from legislators around the state, as well as leadership from Governor Kate Brown on this issue.