Oregon lawmakers pass ban on single-use plastic bags

Single-use plastic bags will be banned at grocery stores and restaurants under the new bill.

Posted: Jun 11, 2019 12:23 PM
Updated: Jun 11, 2019 5:49 PM

SALEM, Ore. — State lawmakers have approved a bill that will ban single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, restaurants and retails stores, Senate Democrats announced on Tuesday.

House Bill 2509 has already passed the House, and it passed on the Senate floor Tuesday in a 17-12 vote.

The bill allows companies to provide either recycled paper bags or reusable plastic bags for a 5 cent fee, paid by the customer.

“Plastic bags are difficult to recycle and are light enough to be blown around easily,” Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) said. “As a result, they are strewn all over the place and are a common form of pollution in our world’s oceans. They don’t biodegrade and so the only way to rid ourselves of them is to stop using them. Much like in the case of polystyrene, something we use once shouldn’t be able to pollute our environment for hundreds of years.”

There are exemptions for plastic bags that are used by suppliers to package their products or "bulk items," and for plastic bags sold to consumers for home trash bags, Senate Democrats said. Customers who use electronic benefits transfer cards under the Women, Infants and Children Program can get paper or reusable plastic bags for free.

“Oregon’s local governments already have been stepping up to do their part,” Dembrow said. “But we need a consistent, statewide effort to have a truly meaningful impact in keeping plastic bags out of our natural environment and out of our oceans, where they are doing significant damage to aquatic life.”

Similar bans on handing out single-use plastic straws at restaurants and polystytrene take-out containers have also been making their way toward reality in recent months — the polystyrene ban, however, failed to garner the votes necessary in order to pass the Senate on Tuesday.

“Instead of banning the bag, we should have bagged the ban. The bill was so poorly written," Republican Senators Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls) and Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) said in a joint statement. "They call these reusable bags ‘single-use’ but they are not. Simply, the bill is not rooted in reality, it is not going to help the environment and it doesn’t even achieve the so-called ‘intention’ of the bill. The supermajority’s legislation this session is proving to be nothing more than a litany of campaign bills and flawed policy. Oregonians deserve better.”

The bill now goes to Governor Kate Brown for her signature.

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