Paper or Plastic? Does it matter?

Every week the Portland Business Journal posts a new poll question which sparks debate. I have started to engage in these conversations and thought it would be great to transfer the questions and my responses here for more people to see. Hopefully people will continue the discussion around these issues since decision making improves when more viewpoints are heard. On to the question…

Should the city of Portland ban plastic bags and charge a fee for paper bags?

My vote: No

San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to ban plastic bags in grocery stores when it passed a bill in 2007. Estimated savings are thought to be nearly 5 million plastic bags each month that are no longer used. That is wonderful and perhaps such a ban would be beneficial. Where I have mixed feelings is the possible fee for using a paper bag. In 2009, the city of Seattle debated a similar question and voters ultimately rejected a 20-cent fee per bag used when shopping. At the same time, the city of Portland decided Oregonian’s could not afford the 5-20 cent charge per bag in a weak economy. Such a charge is like a reverse incentive when compared to the nickel you save at some grocers when using a reusable bag. If my purchase requires two bags to carry and I only bring one reusable bag, do I get charged 20-cents minus 5-cents for a total fee of 15? I believe people have to be motivated with reasons beyond nickels and dimes. A ban is not effective motivation. Perhaps we should look at our household waste, before worrying about the stores. If a ban is imposed on the grocers, will we demand more from brands including Glad and Ziploc? My understanding is these plastics demand more energy resources to produce than the lightweight bag from the supermarket. Additionally, we can each make a personal effort to reuse these plastics while shopping or at home.

Most current news on this topic: Portland Online

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