Monday, February 14, 2011

Ban the bag in Oregon

Just like the bottle bill that passed 40 years ago, Oregon is poised again to be the first in the nation to take another important step for our environment: banning most single-use plastic bans at retail stores.

Oregonians use roughly 1 billion plastic bags a year, most of which are stashed away, thrown away or are blown across our beautiful landscape, harming wildlife in the process.

These plastic bags are not biodegradable and you can't put them in the recycling can.

Oil is needed to produce them.

In other words, these things represent a dreadful legacy to future generations.

Cities elsewhere are banning these bags, but no state has yet made this bold move because the plastic bag industry has bought off lawmakers, most notably in California last year.

And, they're throwing cash at Oregon lawmakers too, but they may not win this time around.

The plastic bag bill surprisingly has bipartisan support in Oregon. You'd expect Democrats to be co-sponsors of this bill, but not Republicans. But there they are.

Republicans back the bill because they believe a revival of paper bags will help our beleaguered timber industry. Mostly, though, they favor the bill because they looked out for one of their big donors: the grocery store industry.

The Oregon bill not only bans plastic bags, but it also imposes a charge of 5 cents per paper bag.

Naturally, the anti-tax fanatics are screaming that this is a TAX! A TAX!

Not so. The 5 cents goes directly to the grocery store, not the government.

Also, no one is forcing anyone to pay 5 cents per paper bag. Join the 21st Century and bring your own bag. Oh yeah, there is another bogus argument out there that some reusable bags contain lead and can harbor bacteria, which Consumer Reports dismissed as completely overblown.

More and more, Oregonians are bringing their own bags to the store. If you see them in Bend, you can be sure you can see them in Eugene and Portland.

By and large, Oregonians have moved past plastic bags. We know that we only have one environment, and if we screw it up, we can't get another one.

In 1971, the bottle bill was slammed by many who thought it would lead to the end of Western civilization as we know it. Quite the opposite. In a small way, it helped save Western civilization.

Banning plastic bags is just another small step toward restoring a semblance of respect for the world in which we live.

Happy Birthday, Oregon. On Feb. 14, 1859, you became a state. Show your love and ban the bags.

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