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Plastic bag ban push comes to Lake Oswego


Environment Oregon makes plea at a stop here

For years the question at grocery stores has been “paper or plastic?”

But a group of environmental activists are hoping to change that, asking city officials in Lake Oswego to ban single use plastic bags from grocers and big-box stores to protect the environment.

For months, members of Environment Oregon, an advocacy group based in Portland, have been going door to door in Lake Oswego, Beaverton and Tigard, collecting signatures to ban plastic bags in the three cities.by: JAIME VALDEZ - On average, Americans use 500 plastic bags each year. Activists say suits like this bag monster help demonstrate the amount of damage each Oregonian contributes every year.

At a press conference outside Lake Oswego City Hall on Tuesday, activists said that they would be turning those petitions over to the city council, in the hopes of banning the bags later this year.

“We are asking city councilors to listen to the voices of their citizens and take action,” said Rowan Jones, a member of the group’s citizen outreach team.

Petitioners have collected more than 750 signatures in Lake Oswego, asking the city council to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores.

Environment Oregon has also collected 1,700 signatures in Beaverton and 1,200 signatures in Tigard since canvassing began in May.

On hand at Tuesday’s press conference was a “bag monster.” A large suit made of 500 plastic grocery bags — Americans use that many grocery bans on average every year, Jones said.

“It’s a shocking representation of the deteriorating effect we are having on our environment,” he said.

Oregonians use 1.7 billion bags a year, on average, Jones said. Those bags are often thrown away, joining landfills or littering the streets. Many eventually make their way into rivers and streams, which flow into the ocean.

There, said Sarah Higginbotham, state director for Environment Oregon, it creates an ecological disaster. The plastic leaks toxins into the water and birds, turtles and other marine life often ingest the material, mistaking it for food.

The leftover remains form what scientists have dubbed the “great Pacific garbage patch,” a large swatch of the ocean where millions of tons of broken up plastics join the currents.

In some parts of the Pacific plastic outweighs plankton six to one, Environment Oregon estimates.

“The scary truth is that scientists tell us this plastic may never biodegrade,” Higginbotham said. “And it gets worse every day Oregonians wait to tackle this problem.”

For Jones, that’s unacceptable.

“Nothing we use for just a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our environment for hundreds of years,” he told a crowd of reporters on Tuesday.

Lake Oswego won’t be the first city in Oregon to ban the bags. Portland, Corvallis and Eugene have banned single-use plastic bags in the last several years and the Legislature considered banning the bags in 2011.

Lake Oswego and Beaverton have both supported proposed statewide bans on the bags, but neither city has gone the extra step to ban the bags themselves.

Jones said the city should “answer the call” of hundreds of citizens who want to protect rivers and oceans.

“From conversations we have had with hundreds of local citizens, there is profound enthusiasm around this issue.”

The petitions will be turned in to city officials next week, Higginbotham said. She said she expects to sit down with city officials sometime over the next few months.