Newport City Councilors, on a 5 to 2 vote, approved moving toward a ban on single use plastic grocery store bags, citing complaints that the bags wind up in the ocean, rivers, blowing down the street, clog storm drains and recycling machinery and fills up our landfills.
The Surfrider Foundation presented a petition signed by several hundred people supporting the ban. Joe Gilliam from the Oregon Grocers Association asked the council to consider a ban option that would require stores, after the plastic ban takes effect, to charge a deposit on paper bags so that shoppers would have a choice whether to continue to use paper bags or switch to totally reusable bags made of either long-lived plastic or cloth fiber. That way he said the cost of dropping plastic bags would be softened assuming a consumer choice.
But a Surfrider spokesman said paper bags are not really reusable as a practical matter and besides, they fall apart in the rain. They said a fee imposed on those who don’t use a reusable bag is the best way to go. City Councilor Dean Sawyer said he doesn’t want to force low income people who walk to the grocery stores to be penalized with fees or deposits. He said he’d like to find a way to get reusable bags into the hands of those who need them most.
Councilor David Allen said despite the outpouring of support for banning plastic bags in a packed city council chambers, he wanted the issue to go to a non-binding vote of the people of Newport to gather broader based opinions from throughout the community. Mayor Mark McConnell said the issue has been before the public for at least two years and that holding an election, with all the time, energy and campaign spending, would be a waste of time. Councilor Lon Brusselback said he knows that banning the bag is the right thing to do and the council should just do it. Councilor Jeff Bertuleit said he gets a 5-cent rebate for each reusable bag he carries out to his car. He said he doesn’t like telling stores what to do beyond a simple ban on plastic.
In the end the motion was made to move forward on a plastic bag ban with the issue of a fee or deposit on paper begs to be reviewed by the city attorney. The city attorney did not attend the council meeting. The vote to move forward with a “ban the bag” ordinance passed on a 5 to 2 vote with councilors David Allen and Jeff Bertuleit voting no. Based on the review period, it will take a month or two to develop a new city ordinance that bans plastic bags and whether a fee or deposit would be appropriate for those who forget their reusable bags or who are willing to pay a little extra for paper bags.
Newport City Councilors tonight are expected to get a heavy pitch from The Surfrider Association and others to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. Ban supporters contend that plastic bags are clogging up our landfill machinery, our storm drains, it’s killing wildlife on land and sea and is a visual blight on the landscape.
During an earlier Newport City Council session, certain councilors asked The Surfrider Association to see if they could drum up support among townspeople and businesses most affected by such a ban. In response, association members have gathered petitions in support of a plastic bag ban.
The city of Portland triggered a ban on single-use plastic bags over the weekend. A similar “ban the bag” bill, having statewide authority, died during the last legislature under heavy lobbying by the plastic bag industry (none of which exists in Oregon) and certain grocery store interests.
The Newport City Council will take public testimony on the issue during its regular twice a month meeting tonight, which begins at 6pm. No final decision on the request to ban plastic bags will be made tonight. The agenda item says “public hearing” only. A decision may come later. The council will also talk about a proposed revision to the city’s hotel-motel room tax ordinance and the city’s “adopt a park” proposal. The council meets tonight, 6pm, City Hall, at Coast Highway and Avery.
The Newport City Council appears interested in joining a movement to ban single use plastic bags, but they’re not quite sure yet how to fall in line behind the leaders. The Surfrider Foundation, an advocacy group trying get the bags banned, told the council that they plan to again request the Oregon Legislature to take up a statewide ban on the bags when it convenes next winter but that they want as many cities and counties as possible to join them in the cause. Surfrider’s Charlie Plybon told the council that if Oregon cities like Newport enact their own bag ban, it might make the legislature more able to withstand the fierce lobbying by plastic bag makers that convinced it to drop the issue last session.
City Councilors seemed amenable to Surfrider’s strategy but strongly indicated that local residents and businesses should be allowed to weigh in on the debate with at least one public hearing to get all the ban implications on the table. Those aspects involve convenience, surcharge for plastic or paper bags, the cost of permanent cloth varieties, etc. Plybon told the council his organization will draft a proposed ordinance so the council and the public will have something tangible to work with. That public hearing could happen as early as October 3rd in front of the Newport City Council.
The city of Portland recently banned single use plastic shopping bags as have a number of U.S. cities. Supporters of the ban point out that the bags cause litter, clog storm drains, cannot be recycled so they’re choking our landfills, pollute rivers and the ocean and are a threat to wildlife both on land and sea since they’re not biodegradable.
City Councilor David Allen said he would be more comfortable seeing The Surfrider Foundation garnering a more formidable “Ban the Bag” lobbying effort on behalf of Oregon cities and counties during the next legislative session which begins shortly after the first of the year. In a comment on this story Allen added, “In my view, a ban should be addressed at the state level by the Legislature, if at all, rather than through a patchwork of ordinances at the local level. And, also, at this point I do not support a local ban in Newport. However, I do support the idea of more outreach to local residents and businesses so they can weigh in on this with other options at one or more public hearings before the council.”
Surfrider’s Charlie Plybon said his group will immediately begin crafting a bag ban ordinance for the city’s and public’s consideration at the council’s October 3rd meeting.