Starting Jan. 1, Oregon retail stores and restaurants were forced by law to discontinue the use of single-use plastic checkout bags. This change was approved by the 2019 Oregon Legislature, which passed the Sustainable Shopping Initiative (House Bill 2509).
HB 2509 prohibits retail establishments from providing single-use checkout bags to customers, and to charge not less than 5 cents each for recycled paper checkout bags, reusable fabric checkout bags or reusable plastic checkout bags provided to customers, except in certain circumstances. Those circumstances are not fully clear in HB2509.
This House Bill also establishes a maximum fine of $250 per violation.
Unfortunately, it also repeals the statute requiring retail establishments that offer plastic bags to customers to also offer paper bags.
Now, if I forget my own carrying bags while shopping, I must use plastic because paper bags are sometimes not available. And I must pay for the privilege.
When faced with this dilemma recently at the local Walmart, I actually piled my purchases in the shopping basket, wheeled it outside to my car and stood in the pouring rain while reloading into my own non-plastic bags. I will not again forget my own bags.
You know — plastic is plastic, no matter if the plastic is thicker or that it can be used more than once. Eventually it will all end up in landfills because those of us who have recycled in the past will continue to do so or will use our own carriers. Those who have never recycled will continue to throw plastic in the garbage. They just have to pay for it now.
There is one excellent answer to this quandary: Quit making plastic!
Which brings me to my next point of environmental disaster involving products created from or related to oil. In 2016, 2017 and 2019, the Oregon Department of Energy, through Chemical Waste Management, illegally buried over 2 million pounds of radioactive fracking waste in Arlington, Oregon — fewer than five miles from the Columbia River.
According to Columbia Riverkeeper, the fracking process "uses tremendous amounts of fresh water, which gathers and concentrates radioactive elements from rock formations."
The Oregon Department of Energy has admitted that some of the waste received by CWM from the North Dakota frackers (this may be a new word) was over 300 times the amount of radioactivity allowed in Oregon landfills.
The crux of this issue is that the state of Oregon is not planning to fine Chemical Waste Management.
Call Gov. Kate Brown at 503-378-4582. Call Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum at 503-378-4320.
Tell them they must hold corporations morally and financially accountable for their behavior.
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