February’s EcOh presentation focused on bags- an exploration of consumer waste and Oregon’s single use bag law. Plastic bags are especially an environmental concern as they are known to litter our landscapes and oceans. Several ordinances have passed in the City of Portland to limit the use of plastic bags at retail stores and other single-use plastic items at food and beverage establishments. As of Jan. 1, 2020, Oregon’s single-use bag law, also known as the “Sustainable Shopping Initiative” took effect (1). This law prohibits retail stores and restaurants from providing single-use checkout bags to customers, and places restrictions on the bags they may supply. Customers are now encouraged to bring their own bags while businesses offer more environmentally friendly bag options for a minimum of 5 cents each. These new options can either be reusable, or a paper variety if they are made of at least 40% post-consumer recycled fiber.
It is also important to note that some reusable bags are more sustainable than others. While cotton tote bags are durable, they also require the largest amount of resources to produce and distribute (2). Cotton itself takes a tremendous amount of water to grow. A better reusable bag option is constructed of repurposed materials, such as PET plastic which is made from post-consumer plastic bottles. Other sustainable food storage options are available such as bee’s wax wraps in lieu of plastic cling wrap. Oregon’s single-use bag law is a step in the right direction and establishes a new culture of shopping habits, but the most important thing is to continue to use the bags we already have, in any way we can, for as long as we can.
- Abad, J. KOIN 6. Posted: Dec 26, 2019. https://www.koin.com/news/oregon/oregons-plastic-bag-ban-takes-effect-in-2020/
- Dillon, N. The Atlantic. Posted: Sep 2, 2016 https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/09/to-tote-or-note-to-tote/498557/