Plastic bags ban heads to city council Monday

Updated 9 p.m. Sept. 10: After nearly two hours of public testimony, the Salem City Council decided not to ban on single-use plastic bags — at least not yet.

Council voted 5 to 4 to send the proposed ban back to staff for them to do more outreach on the ban’s impacts and to review further with council.

Councilors largely supported the ban’s environmental aspirations but split on its scope, such as the number of businesses that would be impacted and the 5 cent fee charged to customers for using paper bags instead of reusable bags.

Council will hear the issue again Oct. 22.

Original story from Sept. 7 below.

Once and for all, Salemites, it’s time to decide: paper or plastic? Actually, paper or reusable bag?

That is to say that Monday night will be residents’ chance to tell the Salem City Council how they feel about a potential ban on single-use plastic bags.

The ordinance, formally introduced at the council Aug. 27, proposes to phase out the bags next year and join a larger movement to cut down on plastics. Salem would be the ninth city in Oregon to ban plastic bags.

If passed, large retailers — over 10,000 square feet in size — would have to curb plastic bags by next April 1. Smaller retailers would have until Sept. 1, 2019 to comply. Violators could be fined between $50 to $250.

Some residents have already made their voices heard, ¢according to documents posted to the city’s website. Supporters say the switch to paper or reusable bags will cut down plastic litter, which takes much longer to degrade.

“We cannot continue to inflict plastic bags on the environment simply because some find them useful,” Ann Rolufs of Salem wrote to the city last month. “The damage to our water, oceans, wildlife and even ourselves is too great for anyone to justify.”

Some argue the council should focus on other issues.

“Please stop thinking you are the rulers of the universe and use your efforts to resolve real Salem issues. Banning plastic bags is an overreach that dictates choices. We aren’t the instigators of ocean plastics,” wrote Donna Bleiler of Salem.

Salem officials urge residents who want to comment to arrive by 6 p.m. to the meeting, at Salem City Hall, 555 Liberty St. Those who can’t make the meeting can email written testimony to the city recorder at [email protected].

Troy Brynelson: [email protected] or 503-357-6190.