Salem crowd split on plastic bags
By Andy Giegerich
Business Journal staff writer
Opponents and proponents of proposed rules regarding plastic bag fees offered passionate arguments during a Tuesday Oregon Senate hearing.
The measure, Senate Bill 536, drew testimony from 33 business advocates, environmental champions and consumers who spoke before the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Seventeen of the speakers said during the three-and-a-half hour hearing they favor the measure while 16 oppose it.
The bill would ban single-use plastic bags issued by grocers and other retailers. Customers who don’t put their goods in reusable bags could purchase a paper bag from the store for five cents.
The Senate committee, chaired by Portland Democratic Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, will eventually decide whether to send the measure to full House and Senate votes.
The topic had attracted attention when Portland’s city council began considering a citywide plastic ban last year. The council agreed to forego its efforts after state lawmakers, led by Beaverton Democratic Sen. Mark Hass, agreed to introduce an Oregon measure during the 2011 legislative session.
Environmental advocates oppose plastic bags because the containers decompose slowly and clog recycling equipment.
The green activists have supporters from grocers such as Safeway and Fred Meyer that back the measure because it would bring uniform state standards.
Bill Gardner, general manager of Memphis-based Kraft Bag/International Paper — which operates a Beaverton facility — said paper bag makers also support the measure.
“Paper is good for the environment: It naturally decomposes and it’s safe for wildlife,” said Gardner, whose company employs about 300 Beaverton employees and 900 statewide in Oregon. “It’s made from renewable resources and is highly recyclable.”
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