City, Chamber partner on free reusable bags
"Paper or plastic?"
It's a phrase that's soon to be a thing of the past in Lake Oswego as the deadline for the City's plastic carryout bag ban approaches.
Beginning July 1, retailers in Lake Oswego of more than 10,000 square feet — of which there are seven — will only offer paper bags, and those paper bags will cost you 10 cents each.
It's a small cost, but City staff and council members hope the "pass-through" fee will do double duty: first, as a small remuneration to the retailers for the bags; and second, to incentivize shoppers to remember to bring reusable bags that are likely tucked under sinks, stuffed beside refrigerators or hidden in the trunks of cars.
Jenny Slepian, the City's sustainability and management analyst, is working to get the word out about the ban as she builds new relationships and finds sponsors to help make the transition as painless as possible for Lake Oswego residents. For example, she says the City and the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce are partnering to give away 14,000 reusable bags as part of the rollout of the bag ban.
The free bags will be distributed to community members through City facilities, businesses and at special kickoff events, which will take place throughout the community on June 30.
The reusable bags will feature a design on one side that will be selected through an art contest for local youth. The City is currently seeking designs from Lake Oswegans 18 and under; the deadline for submissions is Monday, Feb. 25.
To be clear, Slepian says, there are many plastic bags that aren't covered in the ban. For example, it doesn't include any bulk food, meat or produce bags; pharmacy prescription bags; dry cleaning bags; bags used to carry out liquid takeout items; or product bags (Ziplocs, poop bags, etc.).
While larger retailers — Safeway, Albertsons, Market 365, New Seasons, Palisades Market, Zupan's and the downtown Rite Aid store — have until July 1 to implement the ban, all retailers smaller than 10,000 square feet, including the Lake Oswego Farmers Market, have until Jan. 1, 2020 to comply. The smaller stores will have the option to charge the 10-cent pass-through fee for paper bags, while the bigger stores will be required to do so.
The City Council passed the ban at its regular meeting on Dec. 4 after months of consideration and work on Slepian's part, as well as lobbying from nonprofits like the Surf Rider Foundation and positive testimony from groups like the Northwest Grocery Association.
In the months leading up to the council's approval, Slepian sent out 335 letters to retailers across the community and called every supermarket individually to speak with managers. The transition isn't expected to cause too much of a headache for affected retailers in Lake Oswego, Slepian says, because they all operate in other Oregon cities where bag bans have already been passed.
According to Slepian, Lake Oswego uses approximately 14 million plastic bags per year. They're one of the top five materials found in marine debris and pose a serious hazard to both marine life and the health of oceans overall, she says.
Plastic bags also pose problems for the waste collection facilities where Lake Oswego sends its garbage and recycling.
"What people do not know is that plastic bags are not recyclable," she says. "The problem of people putting plastic bags in their recycling is persistent. But when plastic bags end up at a materials recovery facility, they frequently jam sorting machinery, requiring shutdowns to manually extract the bags."
For Slepian, the bag ban is a step forward in City policy to consider the larger impact that consumerism has on the environment, but there are still strides to be made. Her biggest piece of advice? Don't forget those reusable bags.
"I think the biggest thing for everyone is just remembering to bring your reusable bags," Slepian says. "We're going to have bag exchanges at City Hall, the Adult Community Center, the library and farmers market, where people can drop plastic bags off and pick reusable bags up. We're hoping to do some videos with tips and fun reminders on how to remember to bring your bag, so people have little ideas to fall back on to help them bring their bags."
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