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Readers' Letters: Ban on plastic bags has hidden costs

Oregon is right to consider itself a sustainability leader, but a recent reader submission (Don’t let plastic bag ban blow in the wind, Oct. 3) fundamentally misunderstands the role that plastic bags play in the waste stream and what our industry has done to enable responsible disposal.

The reality is that plastic bags are less than one-half of 1 percent of the municipal waste stream, are fully recyclable, and are overwhelmingly reused by shoppers. Banning them simply will not have a meaningful impact on waste reduction. It will just make some people feel good.

Oregon banning plastic bags will not just fail to help the state meet its sustainability goals, it is a policy that misses an opportunity to expand recycling not just of plastic bags but all plastic films and wraps that are accepted by store take-back programs.

By banning plastic bags, the leftover film and wraps that can now be recycled will simply enter the landfill, and the environment, recyclers and American jobs alike will lose out.

Our industry has spent millions of dollars investing in the ability to turn old plastic bags into useful products — which range from swing sets and park benches to new plastic bags that require fewer raw materials. We developed this technology because we understand that putting sustainability and responsible product use at the center of our business is important — but we can’t do it alone.

Oregon can continue its leadership on sustainability through a meaningful dialogue with our industry, along with retailers and residents, that addresses viable ways to expand and improve the state’s recycling infrastructure. That’s how an effective policy can be created — one that helps the environment, protects jobs, and preserves consumer choice.

Mark Daniels

Chairman, the American Progressive Bag Alliance

Washington, D.C.

City doesn’t need more industrial use

We should just stop looking for any more industrial zoning in a city locked within an urban growth boundary (Island’s future is part of job creation, Oct. 17).

New ships capable of ocean transport are so huge that our upriver ports will not be accessible to them. Barge traffic already has plenty of port availability. In fact, the existing ports are not used to capacity. Terminal 4 is not being used at all because the Port of Portland hasn’t committed resources to clean up the contamination. Lower Willamette River pollution by industrial use has created a Superfund site miles long and no cleanup has begun, just years of study.

Trust the Port of Portland to create more pollution if West Hayden Island is annexed and converted to an industrial zone. Ignore all its studies that show pollution will quadruple due to its implementation of a port plan. Ignore the fact that the port has no money appropriated for the required infrastructure which it admits it cannot afford.

That is what you can trust will happen if these feeble warnings of imaginary job loss and economic collapse are heeded. And no mention has been imparted therein about all the local jobs that would be lost in Oregon and Washington as a result of a poorly conceived Columbia River Bridge with its five-to-12-year phased construction and tolls on both the Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 bridges — pre-construction tolls, I might emphasize.

Many good jobs would be created by funding cleanup efforts, and only when that is underway should any new terminals be considered.

That is my “common sense” opinion, which is formed after three years of attending Columbia River Crossing and Port of Portland meetings here on Hayden Island.

Jeff Geisler

North Portland