Newport City Councilors on Tuesday will try again to get some traction in the debate over whether single-use plastic bags should be banned in Newport. An earlier vote by a majority of the councilors favored a ban with instructions for staff to work with Surfrider Foundation to draw up an ordinance to “ban the bag.” But a majority of councilors later reversed their vote under the guise that they had moved too quickly based on phone calls and e-mails they received from local residents and businesses.
Into the lurch moved City Councilor David Allen who volunteered to create a framework for closer scrutiny of the issue. His proposal is expected to be presented to the council at their January 3rd meeting. In a memo to the council, Allen proposes the creation of a plastic bag study committee. The committee would be comprised of representatives who might have a thing or two to say about plastic bags from business to ‘ban the bag’ advocates. Members would be assembled by March and be given six months to come up with a recommended position they’d like to see the Newport City Council take on the issue. ‘That puts the ban the bag’ resolution out to at least September of 2012.
The Newport City Council takes up Councilor Allen’s idea at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting at City Hall, which starts at 6pm.
A number of strategies could be considered, according Councilor Allen’s memo. They include encouraging retailers to offer incentives to customers who bring their own shopping bags. Put a tax or fee on single-use plastic bags to encourage the use of re-useable cloth bags. Encourage more recycling of plastic bags rather than simply throwing them out. And of course, banning them by law.
Meanwhile Surfrider Foundation chief Charlie Plybon, who helped initiate the request that plastic bags be banned in Newport, says he remains disappointed that the council reversed itself on moving ahead with a ban last month. He said the proposed committee will likely wrestle with the issue for six months and come up with the same recommendations that have been adopted in other cities and counties around the West. He said he was hoping that Oregon could be the first state to ban single use plastic bags, ahead of Hawaii, which is also seriously considering their prohibition. Plybon also indicated that he would like to see two city councilors sit on the committee, namely Dick Beemer and Dean Sawyer, who had both changed their votes on moving ahead with the ban last month. He said he wants to make sure that Beemer and Sawyer hear the evidence first hand about why the ban is good for everyone concerned, including the environment, landfills, business and wildlife.
The last Oregon Legislature considered a state-wide ban on single use plastic bags but the bill didn’t make it. Advocates of the ban say it failed due to heavy lobbying from the plastic bag-making industry, none of it based in Oregon. Meanwhile, a number of cities and counties around the country have already banned the bags including Portland, San Jose and Seattle. Here is a recent article in the Seattle Times that chronicles that city’s journey to what turned out to be “banning the bag.” Click here.