A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Plastic bag ban, a boon in disguise?

Written June 11th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Preparing for the ban: A bag full of bags, waiting to be used again.

The meddlers in Salem having done what they do, we might as well start stockpiling plastic checkout bags while they’re still available for free.

Democrats in the legislature don’t want shopping to be all that convenient, so with the stated goal of reducing plastic trash they have passed the statewide plastic bag ban they’ve been talking about for what seems like forever. The governor will sign the bill, HB 2509, passed by the Senate Tuesday. It does not specify an effective date, so it will take effect three months after the legislature adjourns.

But read the bill, or better yet a summary by the legislative staff here.  Turns out the ban is not a ban at all. It purports to ban thin plastic bags intended to be used just once. But it allows retailers and restaurants to provide plastic bags that are deemed to be reusable, and if they do they must charge at least a nickel a bag. So all they have to do is provide bags that are thicker and more durable.

I wonder how they’ll handle this at those self-checkout stations. Now you pick as many bags as you want and nobody keeps track. How will they make this work when the machine has to count the bags and add their price to your total? They’ll figure something out, no doubt.

So maybe this so-called bag ban will in fact will turn out to be the “Plastic Bag Enhancement Act of 2019.” For 5 cents each, we’ll be able to get plastic checkout bags that don’t fall apart the first chance they get. Then we can still use them for all the things we use plastic checkout bags now, except that they’ll work better.

Hard to believe that’s what the sponsors of this legislation had in mind. All the better then, because of the irony, if that’s how things turn out. So maybe there’s no need to stockpile plastic bags after all. (hh)

Posted in: Commentary, News

15 responses to “Plastic bag ban, a boon in disguise?”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The intent is to ban every consumer plastic product one at a time. Single use bags just happen to be the most used consumer product, so banning it gets attention.

    But replacing single use with reusable bags is futile. All plastic consumer products will eventually be banned. And after plastics? Paper products perhaps. Think of all those innocent trees we’re murdering as we sip coffee from a paper cup.

    Denying producers a market and limiting consumers’ access to a product in the name of saving the environment is good politics. Especially if you like big, intrusive government.

  2. CHEZZ says:

    Cat litter situation solved!

  3. Paul Breen says:

    I spent the last decade living in Eugene before moving back to the Albany area. That city put a single-use plastic bag ban into effect back in 2013. From the time it was proposed there was opposition and argument from both sides of the political aisle, and many editorials expressing the same concerns as above. Some saw this bag-ban as an infringement on consumer choice or freedom or whatever causes those on the right to resist any new rule if it carries a whiff of environmentalism. Those on the left complained of the hardship the ban would impose on the poorest citizens requiring the burden of paying a nickel per (re-usable) paper sack!

    Those of us in the middle, along with everyone else, simply adapted to the change. As someone who always preferred the old brown paper bags anyway it bothered me not a bit, nor did the 10 to 20 cents added to my bill. I grew accustomed to either re-using my paper bags or carrying several of the inexpensive fabric or cheapo woven nylon bags that were often supplied free of charge with advertising on them. It was honestly a surprise to see the flimsy little plastic bags at the check-out when I moved back here. My humble advice is to get over it, the single-use bags are silly and wasteful, you’ll get used to the change and maybe even find you prefer the new options, and if you prefer think of it as a boon to the wood products industry.

    As for the concern of how you will be charged per bag or how it will be handled at self-checkout I can only tell you that down south it was simply the honor system. The machine would ask you “how many bags?” you were welcome to answer however you were inclined. In person the clerk just charged for a few bags (but often double-bagged with a wink).

    • John Allen says:

      Corvallis handles the problem of charging you for bags at check-out in the same manner as Eugene. You estimate how many bags you need and the cashier charges you for them. It is still a good deal for the retailers since they used to supply the bags for free and now get some revenue back.

  4. Cheryl P says:

    If the government wants to ban single-use plastic bags, that’s fine, but it’s a bunch of crap having to pay for paper bags because before the SUPB, we used paper bags and we weren’t charged for them. In fact, there are many non-grocery, non-big box stores that use paper bags and they don’t charge their customers.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to charge people for SUPBs?

  5. John Allen says:

    I have grudgingly adapted to having to bring re-usable bags (or buying paper bags). One advantage is that it doesn’t topple over or simply spread out the groceries as easily as plastic bags do.

  6. Bill Kapaun says:

    Paper bags simply suck when carrying frozen foods.
    They simply suck for use on a bicycle. Even with baskets, it’s certainly not uncommon to hang a couple bags off the bars with light items. Chips etc. You can’t hang paper bags.

    Any bag is “single use” if you only use it once.
    I often wad up 2-3 “single use” bags to reuse at the store.

    IF the state is going to force us to pay for a bag, we should be able to recycle it at the bottle/bag drop and get our money back.

  7. Just Some Poor Schmuck says:

    I got tired of having to remember to take the plastic bags back, so we started using those reusable ones that the sell for about a dollar everywhere. Now I don’t have bags full of bags laying around the house. I just have about 10-12 reusable bags cluttering up the kitchen and back seat of my car. That’s fine. I actually hate anything that will do something for the environment since there have been studies that have shown that paper lasts just as long in the landfills as anything else. It’s just an excuse for our moral busy bodies to proclaim their superiority and our damnation. But they’re never going to stop until every piece of land in Oregon is put off limits to anyone that hasn’t got their “Save the Old Growth” punched, though the Old Growth isn’t.

  8. Dala Rouse says:

    I like the plastic bags because they are more sanitary. You wouldn’t believe what checkers find in some of the reusable bags. Yes I take my plastic bags back to store. The store also collects the plastic that is wrapped around freight. They have huge bags of the stuff. It goes back and is turned into new bags and other things. Plastic bags are on most freezer items. Are they going to ban those too. We are just a small part of the world so what about others. I saw picture of some countries dumping all their garbage in the ocean.

  9. Kenneth Donaldson says:

    Weren’t plastic bags all the rage because they saved the trees?

    • HowlingCicada says:

      If they were, you can bet the cause was PR spin by those who stood to make lots of money from plastic bags. You don’t need trees worth saving to make paper bags; wood scraps, slash and (some) recycled paper will do. So will trees from the thinning needed to make forests heathier and more fire-resistant. Might cost a little more than clear-cutting. Maybe some “environmentalists” aren’t on-board.


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