Portland Passes a Better Bag Ban for the Pacific

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City Council unanimously votes to expand plastic bag ban

Environment Oregon

PORTLAND, OR—Today Portland City Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of expanding Portland’s plastic bag ban. The policy will have big payoffs for Oregon’s environment and the Pacific Ocean.

“Mayor Sam Adams should be applauded for leading the way in protecting our oceans and Oregon’s waterways,” said Sarah Higginbotham, State Director at Environment Oregon. “With thousands of Portlanders calling for a better bag ban, City Commissioners responded and took meaningful action.”

Environment Oregon delivered over 3,000 petitions of support for a better bag ban, and helped enlist the support of dozens of businesses.  Environment Oregon was joined in support of the better bag ban with Surfrider Foundation, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Willamette Riverkeeper, Tualatin Riverkeepers, Oceana, Portland Audubon Society, and Oregon Shores.

The ban will now include not just large retailers, but all stores and restaurants. The ban takes effect March 1st for large retailers (larger than 10,000 square feet) and October 1st for all others.

As the largest city in the state, Portland’s more inclusive bag ban will make a significant impact. Oregonians use approximately 1.7 billion plastic bags each year, and too many of them end up as litter in our ocean. Today, there are 100 million tons of trash in the North Pacific Gyre; in some parts of the Pacific, plastic outweighs plankton 6 to 1.

All of this trash in the Pacific is creating an ecological disaster:

•    Turtles and seabirds frequently ingest floating plastic, mistaking it for food. They also get entangled in bags and often drown or die of suffocation.
•    Adult seabirds inadvertently feed small bits of plastic to their chicks — often causing them to starve to death after their stomachs become filled with plastic.
•    Toxic pollutants leach from the plastic into the water. Scientists are now studying whether fish and other marine animals absorb these toxic pollutants. If so, there is a good chance that we also absorb them when we eat fish.

“The scary truth is that scientists tell us this plastic may never biodegrade,” said Higginbotham.  “The problem is too enormous and the solution is just too simple to wait any longer.”