Oregon Legislature Ponders Plastic Bag Ban

Will the State of Oregon be the first state in the U.S. to pass a statewide plastic bag ban?

If Senator Mark Hass has his way, it will be. Hass introduced Senate Bill 536 in the Senate on January 10th.

If it passes, SB 536 will ban single-use plastic bags at the check-out stand throughout the State of Oregon. Co-sponsors of the bill are Senator Atkinson and Representatives Cannon and Gilliam.

Senator Hass introduced a similar bill last year but it never made it through the session. On January 14th, the bill was referred to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

On February 8th, the Committee held a public hearing. Senator Hass is a member of this committee. He and Senator Atkinson both made statements about the reasons for the bill. Senator Hass stated that "12% by volume of the trash collected on beach cleanups is plastic bags". He also stated that of the 1.7 billion plastic bags consumed in Oregon each year, only 5% are turned in for recycling.

Senator Atkinson stated, "This will be landmark legislation" in that it is inclusive of several groups: 1) the grocery industry; 2) municipalities; 3) people that have asked for increased harvest of sustainable timber. He further stated that if the state legislature doesn't pass the bill, many municipalities have stated that they will.

It was interesting to note that Mark Daniels, VP of Sustainability and Environmental Policy for Hilex Poly came from Texas to testify against SB 536. Senator Hass interupted Mr. Daniels to correct him when he stated that the fee was a tax. Senator Hass said he had a legal opinion that said the fee was not a tax.

The hearing continued with numerous people speaking for and against SB 536. One of the main statements consistently mentioned from several people was that it was so important that the State pass this bill to avoid a patchwork of plastic bag bans from municipalities across the state.

For more information, read a summary of SB 536.

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