Plastic bag ban

So, exciting news — our mayor and city council are extremely environmentally-minded, and they’re getting ready to ban one-use plastic bags within the city limits.

Ironically, that just means the plastic bags they load you up with at the checkout counter. The plastic produce bags aren’t apparently considered “one-use.”

I don't really have art for this post so here's a picture of the girls together.

I don’t really have art for this post so here’s a picture of the girls together.

But! That’s better than a stick in the eye, as Eric would say.

Anyway. Last Saturday we were out and about doing our regular grocery shopping trip (I’m usually by myself, but circumstances brought us together), and at the checkout, the lady behind the counter was all, thank you for bringing your own bags! and was very complimentary on my jars of bulk and our cloth bags of produce. Then she was all like, hey, have you heard about the plastic bag ban coming up? and we were all like, yes! Yay!

I kind of thought, just based on her positive reaction to my bags et al, that she would also be a yay voice.

Nope. She started going off: People are going to have to start paying for bags and she thinks that is wrong, don’t nickel and dime the customer! We just sort of looked at her and mixed in a, well, we think it’s great whenever she took a breath.

I kind of wondered about that in the car, but, as Eric pointed out, the checkers are going to be the ones who get the brunt of the fallout from those who suddenly now have to purchase a bag to get their groceries home. So no wonder she’s not looking forward to that.

And in a weird way she was worrying about our best interests.

Well, don’t worry about it on my behalf, nice checker lady, because I’m jacked. We’ve been to other Oregon cities who have independently banned plastic bags and charge, and it works just fine. When we went on a California adventure a few years ago, we got used to checkers asking us if we wanted to buy a bag. That phrase — “Do you want to buy a bag?” — is key.

Because it has to hurt (although I would argue a nickel or dime isn’t terrible) in order for more people to start remembering their reusable bags. There has to be some kind of consequence. (HERE is a story from The Washington Post that discusses how charging equals less bag usage. The internet is a marvelous thing.)

And it’s not like we need those plastic bags so desperately because there aren’t any other options. You got an argument, I got a solution:

  • Need to line your garbage? Use a cereal bag or a potato chip bag or a pet food bag. (Or compost and recycle — that should take care of most of it.)
  • Don’t want to pay the fee to buy a bag but don’t have one with you? Put everything back into the cart and bring it to the car that way. (I bet you’d only do that once though. What a pain that would be.)
  • Keep forgetting your bags in the car? Run out to get them when you remember (maybe park your cart in a safe place first). I also have a couple that I keep in my purse.

Anyway, I am so happy that my town is getting ready to jump on the bandwagon. I hope our county stores follow suit … and then the rest of Oregon.

Banning something petroleum-based that doesn’t break down and can harm wildlife? Bring it.

Out of curiosity, how many of you live in towns or states or provinces that have banned plastic bags? Thoughts and feeling?

P.S. I haven’t done a trash update in a while, but anyway, we’re holding steady at a little less than one bag of garbage every two weeks (I have a feeling we haven’t had change because of the cats — that includes their literal waste). What I’m excited about, though, is our recycling has gone down tremendously, to half a bin every two weeks. That’s amazing to me, and I’m thrilled we’re seeing visible, tangible results.

Next up: I haven’t decided, but there is a very good chance it will involve more cat photos.

20 Responses to Plastic bag ban

  1. Wales has had a 5p charge for plastic bags for a few years, then Scotland joined in and then finally England took the plunge – only for shops with over 200 employees for some strange reason though! I think it’s great. The 5p charge goes to charities and there are millions fewer bags going into circulation which can only be good for the environment. They are made from by products of the oil refining industry so they’re not all bad, the problem is the quantity and how many of them get into the wider environment instead of the waste stream – which here these days means being recycled or burnt for energy (either here or shipped to Norway!!)

    • I love that the 5p goes to charity! I can’t really see that happening here (corporations are too into their bottom lines, everyone and everything be damned), but who knows, I didn’t see a bag ban coming either and here we are. Actually it’s sad it’s taken Oregon so long to get on board. We’re supposed to be one of the most environmentally-conscience states in the union.

      Also, had no idea you could burn plastic bags for energy…

  2. How do you deal with the cats litter? I don’t want to scoop directly into the trash because I don’t want to carry the box to the main trash can twice a day and I also don’t want to put litter directly into the trash in case the bag leaks. So I recycle the plastic bags for litter duty.

    The current plastic bag crisis around here is that the recycling company declared it won’t pick up recycling if it has been sorted into plastic bags because they break the machinery. Just put everything mixed up together into the bin. So many people are freaking out about unsorted recycle and declaring they will never stop using bags in the bins. Funny, sad, and odd all at once.

    • We have been putting all our recycling into one big recycling bin for years, bottles, paper, cardboard, plastic containers, it all goes in together and it is great, really works well. If the recycling truck spots plastic bags in the bin the bin does not get emptied. It is a definite no to put plastic bags in the recycling kerbside bins. That is funny that people are freaking out about it, I agree that it is funny, sad and odd all at once!

    • Cat litter: We have a couple of different systems. Pearl’s box is in the laundry room, where I moved our main 10 gallon or whatever it is trash can. I still have plastic liners we bought ages ago for that, so Pearl’s waste goes directly into the trash. I don’t worry about the bag breaking because there’s not a lot else in there … but it does cut down on my willingness to sort through the trash periodically to see if the fam is tossing anything that could be recycled or composted.

      Right now, Bear has a separate litter box in our bathroom. Have a tiny trash bin in there; we just reuse the same plastic bag liner over and over again. But we have a separate small bag inside that one for her waste — like a bread bag or cereal liner or whatever, so we can close it and not have to smell it all day long. And then that gets moved to the big trash can.

      Sorting recyclables: We don’t have to sort ours, either. It’s been like that forever — we just toss everything into one bin and that’s that. You’d think people would be excited about that because it’s less work on their end. Funny!

  3. So depressing at this time of year when the shops are so busy and I see so many people with so many plastic bags, I get really angry that people are just too naive or lazy to care. In Australia the store Target tried to sell plastic bags for a few years and i was so impressed but then they bowed to public pressure and stopped doing that. Plastic bags are in plentiful free supply again. For me it has become a habit to use my reusable bags and like you I carry a few of the small rolled up ones in my handbag.

  4. I’m in California, and the bag ban has taken effect here. I have been so exited to see people bringing in all sorts of bags for reuse — old plastic “single use” bags, paper bags, bags designed as reuseables. And they’re using a lot fewer bags if they have to buy them — everything goes in one bag instead of one item per bag (or double bag) which I used to see before and I used to get so worked up! In just a couple of weeks I’ve really noticed a difference at stores. I haven’t NOTICED fewer bags floating around the environment, but I have not noticed any of the ones you have to buy floating around. So I’d say, so far, the ban has been great for reducing waste here! Cashiers have been pleasant too, but it helps that it’s state law, so they can deflect the blame.

    • Our cashiers need to rehearse saying, “Call the mayor.” 😉 I think it’s awesome that California is a leader in this. I’m really wondering why it’s taking Oregon so long to follow suit.

  5. I would love it if our state did the same thing or just the whole US. I hope it happens but, then again I hope a lot of things happen that probably wont in my life time. I keep hoping for some serious change. I was thrilled when our Co op stopped using plastic bags and now only has paper not sure which is worse cut down a tree or use oil.

    • I know, it’s hard to figure out where the line is on this kind of thing. Lumber is technically a renewable resource, but the cycle takes a while to complete. And clear cuts are UGLY. (We’re looking at a couple right now, literally, outside our window.)

      Still, I would rather use a paper bag; they’re reusable and recyclable, and if they end up outside the waste stream, they’re biodegradable too. (But I know. Poor trees.)

  6. I’m in Austin, TX and there has been a single-use bag ban here for a couple of years. I believe I’ve heard that plastic produce bags are on the way out, too – the store now sells string bags next to the produce to help us get used to the idea, I guess!

    The one thing that irks me a little is that any bag that is designed to be ‘reusable’ is still allowed, so there are lots of paper bags, heavier plastic bags, and fancy bags from fancy stores, that are given away with every purchase, just like plastic bags. They usually say ‘Reuse me!’ on them. People generally seem fine with bringing bags to grocery shop, but I rarely see reusable bags at the mall or other stores, for instance. But a lot of businesses do ask before automatically giving out bags, and generally I think our city is going in the right direction with this.

    It does seem to me that people gripe before a bag ban, but once it’s happened, it becomes old news, new habits form, and people realise that it’s not a big problem. It’s either not worth thinking about any more and you move on, or when you experience the freedom from those flimsy bags, you realise you’re happier without them!

    • Good for Austin! And that’s awesome that your store has reusable bags in the produce section — solving the problem before one even starts. (Our store has cloth bags in the bulk aisle, but they’re kind of hidden.)

      I’ve noticed that too, that people are in the habit of taking bags into the grocery store but not other stores. Humans are certainly creatures of habit!

    • I am pretty good at remembering to take bqgs when I grocery shop, but not so good on other shopping trips!! So sometimes I jist have to pay for a plastic bag 🙁 but it will be reused over and over.

  7. I’m in Toronto area. Plastic bag ban was brought in years ago, but I think there is no longer a fee to buy a bag at all stores, some stores still charge the fee. I would estimate at least 80% of people bring their own bags to the grocery store.

    We keep a “bag of bags” in our car. These very sturdy reusable bags from the grocery and bulks stores are used for majority of our shopping. We also have a small foldable cloth bag for travel or small purchases.

    Just a random thought, have you considered having readers submit photos of their local waste reduction programs? Examples: community waste systems separating recyclables, compost and trash or re-use it drop off centres. May help us individually advocate for change in our communities. I can start, here is the link to Toronto waste website: . Toronto (4th largest city in North America) has achieved 70% waste diversion with a goal of zero waste to landfill. Now if we just get takeout coffee cups to not be lined in plastic

  8. We have plastic bag ban where I live in Thurston County, Washington and I’m so glad! It’s been more than a year since the ban passed and I don’t think people even give it a second thought anymore.

  9. No plastic bag bans here in Thailand – almost everything comes packaged! There’s plastic bags everywhere… But supermarkets are starting to give “green points” to customers who bring their own bags. And a couple weeks ago I started using smaller cloth bags for produce – no one made a fuss (store personnel seemed pleased, actually), so I’ll keep using them. I can’t do anything about all the other stuff that’s already packaged, but at least I can save a few bags each week…

    • This is a great example of doing what you can in the circumstances you’re given. 🙂 Who knows, others may see your grocery and produce bags and decide to give it a go too. And it’s fantastic that the store staff is so supportive. Anyway, you’re a light! Thanks for sharing!

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