A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

The plastic bag ban after 2 years

Written January 1st, 2022 by Hasso Hering

Here’s what happens when you don’t want to discard those 5-cent paper bags.

Right about now, at the start to yet another year, you’re probably not thinking about Oregon’s two-year-old bag law. But I was, because of the paper bags stacking up.

The legislature passed this law in 2019, and it took effect in 2020. It banned so-called single-use plastic bags and required merchants to charge at least 5 cents per paper bag.

Then the coronavirus hit, and stores were allowed to resume or continue handing out free plastic bags. But somewhere around the middle of last year, plastic bags disappeared again.

There is an enforcement angle to this. The state encouraged counties and cities to make sure the plastic bag ban and 5-cent requirement for paper bags were obeyed. Violators faced potential $250 fines if someone turned them in.

I’m not aware of any bag enforcement action locally. Either stores were scrupulous in their compliance, or no customers ratted anyone out. Or the local cops had better things to do than investigate anything like that.

At the Albany stores where I shop, paper bags are available. Most, but not all,  charge you a nickel if you want one.

“Would you like to buy a bag?” they ask at one store. You have emptied your basket of a dozen small items, which are now spread across the checker’s counter. No, I would not LIKE to buy a bag, but how else am I going to get all that stuff to the far side of the parking lot?

Take-out meals usually come in single-use plastic bags. I don’t remember ever paying a nickel for one of those.

We’re supposed to act like good citizens and carry our purchases away in reusable shopping bags. But I keep forgetting them in the car.

The upshot of all this is that paper bags are piling up at home. The printing on them says they’re recyclable. But who wants to give away a pile of bags that cost an extra nickel each?

If you used to save plastic bags because they were useful around the house, you may be saving paper sacks now for the same theoretical reason. But they’re not all that useful in practice. Moisture dissolves them. They’re hard to seal.

So the pile gets taller week by week.  (hh)

At least these were made in America.







22 responses to “The plastic bag ban after 2 years”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Methinks the pile grows larger only because you’re:
    A, Unwilling to recycle them…
    B. Unwilling to reuse them…
    Another option has always been to take in your own reusable bags…

  2. David Smith says:

    Safeway, WinCo, and Fred’s will gladly, and per the law, charge you for any paper bags you need, 5 cents, as will most other retail stores. Winco, however, will rebate you 6 cents if you bring your own bags for bagging your groceries, usually I end up of getting back $.24 each time I do my weekly shopping trip there for the four bags I usually use to carry my groceries. That is, if I can remember to carry them with me into the store in the first place. I do carry a bag of old paper bags in my car for just this eventuality. Shhh on this, please, as most of the bags were sourced from WinCo in the first place, I have this racket of selling them back the same bags time after time. I’ve had bags last me for a half dozen plus visits or more. At this rate, I can become a millionaire off of WinCo in about 12,358 AD, according to my math!

  3. John Allen says:

    It took me awhile to remember to take in my reusable bags but now it’s automatic. Hasso, if you haven’t made that adjustment in 2 years, there’s no hope for you.

  4. Terry says:

    Another useless law intended to penalize the consumer for consuming.
    They (most stores in Albany) won’t touch your reusable bags so those are useless.
    The checkers won’t put the items you buy into your bags.
    If the stores must charge for the bags they should then also be made to take them back for a 5 cent credit like a can.

    • centrist says:

      That was the rule once, but no longer. FM, Walmart, and WINCO will fill my reuseable bags now.
      It took me a while to get used to taking the cloth bags. I’ve been a grocery getter since 1st grade (when I was allowed to cross the street). The bag served two purposes — not just a container, it doubled as a receipt. The price of every item was carefully written in pencil and totalled.

  5. Ron Green says:

    This seems like a non-issue. I carry a few cloth bags in the car (in a spot I can remember, and reach.) At the checkout, I put things in the bags.

    If I’m on the bicycle, I just use a pannier for shopping and put the items in that when checking out.

    Has COVID made things like this too difficult for Albanians?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Not difficult. Just unnecessarily inconvenient.

      • John says:

        You can do it Hasso, we believe in you!

      • Sharon Konopa says:

        I’m with you, Hasso!
        Also, the legislature didn’t take in to consideration the small thin plastic bags were easier to carry for people with shoulder disabilities or let alone seniors. The paper bags filled with groceries are heavier to lift and when they first provided paper only, the bags were thinner. My first time grabbing the paper bag with one hand ended up with the top of the bag ripping and there went my groceries rolling down Fred Meyer’s parking lot. I end up having to buy more paper bags now, so they are only filled half way. I refuse to use cloth bags, because I don’t want to wash them each time. In my opinion, they should be washed every time to keep the check stands sanitary and for the clerks safety. I do miss the old thin plastic bags!

  6. Terry says:

    Just big government unnecessarily putting their nose in something that they shouldn’t!

  7. George Pugh says:

    When my wife forgets to take her fabric bags into the grocery store( reminding her might be labeled “nagging”) we put our purchases back into the cart and wheel them to the car where we have a cooler plus the bags she forgot to take in. This probably wouldn’t work if you went shopping on a bicycle. :=)
    I considered Safeway’s heavy-duty, multi-use plastic bags, when available, a good deal at a nickel, for storing some things at home.

    • centrist says:

      Howdy GP
      Your post triggered another childhood memory. “Old Ladies” ( from a 7 yo perspective) pushing a 2wheel cart from store to store. Big enough to hold 6 big bags or many smaller ones from corner merchants who lived above the business.
      Oh, the bags rarely went to waste. When the joints were carefully opened, they wrapped many a parcel in the 50s

  8. Bilbo Baggins says:

    My well to do sister in Cornvalley grabs handfulls of those whispy vegetable bags from the vegetable section and hauls her grockeries home in those. I happened to be at her house one day when she’d returned from shopping – I never let a woman carry in her grocs alone if I’m around (’cause I’m toxically masculine) AND after about the 27th little bag, I had to ask. Well she informed me that she ain’t gonna let those hucksters get the bulge on her. Gotta admire her pluck – if not her civic mindedness.

  9. Katherine says:

    Bags Bags, Bags cloth, paper or plastic so controversial.
    Geez a slow news day Hasso?

  10. CHEZZ says:

    I recycle my bags to a Food Bank – they use both boxes and bags to get the food to those in need. Food Banks love them!

  11. Richard Vannice says:

    Am I the only person old enough to remember when stores DID NOT charge anything for a bag, paper or plastic. It was part of the cost of doing business and was included in calculating the cost for the merchant.
    Guess they have a better lobby than the consumers.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      2nd paragraph above-

      “The legislature passed this law in 2019, and it took effect in 2020. It banned so-called single-use plastic bags and required merchants to charge at least 5 cents per paper bag.”

  12. Lundy says:

    Pro tip from someone who’s philosophically opposed to paying a grocery store for something they happily gave out free for decades: If I don’t have a reusable bag with me, I grab an empty box or two from the produce area.

  13. Jennifer Stuart says:

    When I had an extended visit to family in Brussels 13 or 14 years ago, I quickly learned to remember to bring my bags, because the only alternative was to spend a Euro or two on one of their store branded reusable bags. They did not offer a cheap alternative like they do here, so there was no choice but to remember.

  14. Connie Nelson says:

    I too miss those thin plastic bags. I reused them by putting them in the bathroom waste
    baskets. I also know that a company in a small town, Jerome, Idaho, employed many
    people at good wages to make those bags as my daughter-in-law worked there some years
    ago. Good intentions can have downsides besides inconvenience.

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