One simple question has caused a lot of drama in Oregon this year: Paper or plastic? The push to ban plastic bags from big grocery stores won support in Portland city hall last August, but then flopped statewide, and has now worked its way back to City Council's table.
It's no surprise that the forward-thinking anti-plastic plan has widespread support in Portland. And not just from representatives of groups like the teenage "homeschool peace jam club" who gushed to City Council about their "ban the bag" zine during Thursday, July 21st's hearing, but also from uppity up decision makers: The council voted quickly and unanimously to ban plastic bags from large grocery store check out lanes citywide this October.
What's surprising is the other, previously untapped bloc Ban the Bag has brought out of the woodwork: People who love plastic bags.
I'm not talking about the plastics industry—companies like South Carolina-based Hilex Poly, which spent $52,000 lobbying to kill the Ban the Bag bill in Salem this year, and untold more dollars on web ads framing reusable totes as germ-ridden Petri dishes.
I'm not talking about people like Terry Parker, that dude who will show up at a hearing on anything Mayor Sam Adams supports and denounce it as socialism (in this specific case: also social engineering).
I'm talking about the surprisingly genuine, grassroots support for not changing a damn thing in the checkout aisle. Citizens who will give fiery speeches, defending their right to the humble, simple, trash-bound plastic bag. Because I find pleasure in spectacle, I've been periodically checking the mayor's citizen voicemail complaint line during the past year. And it's shocking—shocking, I say!—how many people call in to express their love of plastic bags.
"I use them for various things, like disposing of cat litter, as many senior citizens do," citizen Kathy Bambeck told city council, summing up the plastic defenders' stance. "They are small enough to hold small, heavy things."
She's right! Plastic bags are literally good for shit. And carrying groceries. Annnnnd filling the oceans with trash and killing sea life at an alarming rate.
But don't worry, poop scoopers. Plastic bags aren't going away under the ban. Oregon uses 1 billion of them a year—they're not disappearing fast. The ban only applies to the checkout bags at large grocery stores, so plastic bags will still abound in places like Plaid Pantry.
And if that fails—hey, there's always the Oregonian's plastic Foodday bag... conveniently delivered weekly to your door without request.