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Milwaukie considers ban on single-use plastic bags

by: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson holds a biodegradable alternative to plastic bags at last week's city council meeting.

The city of Milwaukie last week moved closer to a 'summit on plastic bags' that could lead to a single-use bag ban or retail guidelines encouraging alternatives.

The City Council passed a resolution April 5 supporting a plastic-bag ban statewide if it didn't require retailers to charge customers for alternative bags. Portland passed an ordinance in June that, if also passed in Milwaukie, would only apply to the city's two largest stores, Safeway on King Road and Albertson's near Highway 224, that have more than $2 million in gross annual sales.

Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson said last week that he was concerned about the impacts of plastic bags on wildlife, recycling equipment and litter.

'As an environmental steward, I'd like to see the city of Milwaukie step up and be a leader,' Ferguson said, offering to facilitate the summit for retailers that would look for biodegradable or reusable options.

Councilor Greg Chaimov thought it would be helpful for someone in favor, someone opposed and someone from a local retail establishment to participate in such a brainstorming forum.

JoAnn Herrigel, Milwaukie's community services director, said she was having trouble with the numerous council goals, and Ferguson asked to put the issue on the back burner until he could talk with retailers.

'For every pro, there's generally a con you can find,' Herrigel said.

Clackamas County isn't set to consider a bag ban, so Councilor Mike Miller feared a 'negative competitive situation' because neighboring stores to the south of Milwaukie wouldn't have to abide by the regulations.

Miller said most of the citizens he's heard from are anti-ban and see government forcing people to buy garbage liners instead of reusing the so-called single-use bags.

'I'm really concerned that we go slowly on this,' Miller said.

Councilor Dave Hedges said he's heard from an even split of pro and con perspectives on the ban, preferring to pass regulations for the city to allow curbside recycling of plastic bags and curbside recycling.

Milwaukie doesn't accept plastic bags because it is one of the major causes of breakdowns in recycling facilities if the bags are not properly separated.

'Unless there was some overwhelming evidence that this was something that had to be done, I wouldn't want to pass something that half the city doesn't want,' Hedges said.