Metro Council votes to support statewide plastic bag ban
Bill expected to pass when legislature convenes
During its first council meeting with newly elected President Tom Hughes and District 1 Councilor Shirley Craddick, the Metro Council passed a resolution introduced by Councilor Rex Burkholder and co-sponsored by Craddick to support a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at retail stores.
"Plastic bags cause tough litter problems in our neighborhoods, significant issues at recycling facilities, and lethal harm to wildlife," Burkholder said. “This resolution supports Metro’s goals to promote sustainability and protect the natural environment that makes our region so special.”
The proposed legislation is sponsored by Senators Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) and Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point), who teamed up with environmental activists, grocery store owners and paper bag manufacturers to craft the proposal that would ban the use of single-use plastic bags at Oregon retailers and require customers to either bring their own reusable sacks or pay a 5 cent fee to use paper bags. With bipartisan support and backing from grocers, the bill is expected to pass when the legislature reconvenes later this month.
"This legislation is a vital step in protecting the region’s environment, and I'm proud to support Metro's resolution," said Craddick. "It will help preserve clean rivers and water quality, and the outdoor opportunities we enjoy with our families."
Although the Metro resolution doesn’t affect actual policy, it’s a strong sign of solidarity with the legislation’s proponents.
Plastic bags cannot be recycled curbside but frequently get mixed with other recyclables and clog sorting machines at material recovery facilities. They account for as much as 30 percent of overall labor costs at local recycling facilities. Plastic bags also don’t biodegrade and instead often make it into waterways where they accumulate and harm marine life.
Oregon Zoo Director Kim Smith also supports the legislation. At a hearing before the Oregon Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, she said "the reason I support banning single-use plastic bags is simple - they pollute the environment and create hazards for wildlife on a massive scale."
Smith went on to note the overall danger to wildlife includes animals becoming entangled in plastic debris, animals eating plastic, and the chemical pollution caused when plastic bags degrade into smaller bits and absorb toxins that are then eaten by ocean organisms, moving up the food chain and poisoning other animals.
"These problems with plastic waste are among the reasons we don’t use plastic bags, straws or cup lids in our shops and concessions at the zoo," Smith added.
The cities of Portland and Lake Oswego have already passed similar resolutions, as have municipalities and countries across the world including Los Angeles County, Italy, Ireland, the UK and parts of Australia.
The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save a number of endangered western species.
Metro, the regional government, crosses city limits and county lines to build a resilient economy, keep nature close by and respond to a changing climate. Representing a diverse population of 1.5 million people in 25 cities and three counties, Metro's directly elected council gives voters a voice in decisions about how the region grows and communities prosper. For more information, visit www.oregonmetro.gov.