Oregon retailers and restaurants say goodbye to single-use plastic bags
The Sustainable Shopping Initiative begins January 1, 2020
Under a bill approved by the Oregon legislature this past summer, grocery stores, retail stores and restaurants will no longer be able to provide customers with single-use plastic bags. Instead, these outlets can only provide paper bags or thicker reusable plastic bags — both of which will cost a minimum of five cents per bag.
Why the change?
Plastic bags have never been accepted in the curbside recycling cart. When they end up in the recycling stream, they can endanger the safety of workers at sorting facilities where the bags get tangled in the machinery and have to be removed by hand.
What about cities that already have their own bag bans?
Today, there are several local bag ordinances in cities across the state — including Portland, Salem, Ashland, Bend, Eugene and Corvallis. When this new law, House Bill (HB) 2509, goes into effect on January 1, it creates a single, uniform law for the entire state of Oregon — making it easier for businesses to implement on a state-wide basis, rather than city by city.
How can I avoid the new bag fee?
Simple, bring your own reusable bag. Not only is it better for the planet, it will save you a few cents every time you shop. If you don’t bring your own reusable bag, expect to pay a small fee for each bag at the register. This fee is designed to help businesses offset the cost to purchase more sustainable bags. Remember, the bags you see at stores and restaurants beginning January 1 will either be paper bags (which can be reused) or thicker, reusable plastic bags.
Please note that retail stores and restaurants may provide certain reusable bags for free to customers using an electronics benefits transfer card (EBT) or WIC voucher.
Does this impact the different types of plastic bags I buy at the store?
No. There are a handful of specific exceptions. You can still buy these types of specialized plastic bags at the store:
- food storage bags, like Ziploc bags
- trash and leaf bags, like Glad and Hefty
- bags for pet waste
- single-use bags designed for sanitary or privacy purposes
And you still find a few types of plastic bags in use throughout the grocery store:
- plastic bags used for bulk foods, produce and bakery goods
- plastic wraps from frozen food, meat, fish, flowers and other damp products
Just remember that the single-use plastic bags traditionally found at the checkstand to bag up your purchases will no longer be available.
How does this work at a restaurant or drive-thru?
When restaurants use recycled paper bags, there’s no fee. If they choose to use reusable plastic bags, there will be a minimal fee. And just like their grocery and retail counterparts, restaurants will no longer be able to use single-use plastic bags.
Get ready for January 1, 2020
With the passage of HB 2509 last June, the Sustainable Shopping Initiative is on the books and in the bag. For most examples, single-use plastic bags are officially out. Paper bags and thicker, reusable plastic bags will be available for a small fee. Or you can bring your own reusable bags and save money while helping the environment.
The State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has created an FAQ sheet with details on the Sustainable Shopping Initiative. Learn more here.