Portlands plastic bag ban begins in mid-October

Exemptions from new ordinance include pharmacies, farmers markets

The Portland City Council voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to ban single-use plastic bags used at check-out counters in large retail stores.

The City Code change begins Oct. 15.

The council had considered a ban a year ago but postponed a vote to allow the 2011 Legislature to consider the issue. The session adjourned without taking action on it.


• Click here to see the city's ordinance banning single-use plastic bags.

Adams said last week that the city planned to 'go our own way' on the issue because legislators failed to act on a statewide ban.

'These bags are used once, but they last forever,' Adams told KPAM 860 last week. 'They might break down into the chemicals, but those chemicals are getting into the marine-based food chain and contaminating the water.

'Over nine in 10 bags are simply thrown away, not reused, not recycled. It's not the best use of our fossil fuels and our precious natural resources. It's a bad habit worth kicking.'

Portland joins a handful of other cities across the nation that have adopted similar plastic bag bans, including Malibu; Los Angeles; San Jose; Brownsville, Texas; Telluride, Colo.; Westport, Conn.; and Bellingham and Edmonds, Wash.

Portland officials hope the ban will encourage customers to take their own reusable bags when they shop.

The measure approved by the council specifically mentions grocery stores with gross annual sales of $2 million or more and businesses that have more than 10,000 square feet of retail space and a pharmacy.

There are numerous exemptions in the ban, including plastic bags used for bulk food, produce and meat at grocery stores. Pharmacists may use plastic bags to protect their customers privacy. And plastic bags will be allowed at farmers markets.

Mayor Sam Adams pushed for the ban, arguing that Oregonians use an estimated 1.7 billion single-use check-out bags a year. That's 444 for every person in the state.

The measure also requires stores to provide only recyclable paper, compostable plastic or reusable bags.

Stores that don't follow the law will first receive a warning and face fines of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $500 for repeat violations.

Fox 12 and reporter Kevin Harden contributed to this news story.