Following two public hearings in a span of two weeks – and a long council discussion – the North Bend City Council took action on a proposed carry-out plastic bag ban ordinance at their December 4th meeting.
Numerous residents showed up to voice their opinions on the topic, more were in favor of the ban than against it.
Councilmemer Martin Volken, who has been a proponent of the plastic bag ban legislation, said for him it wasn’t about plastic vs. paper, but about resource reduction.
A Republic Waste representative spoke to a problematic issue the company deals with when plastic bags make their way into recycling bins and then subsequently clog machinery. The company does not accept carry-out plastic bags, which have to be taken to local grocery stores that participate in specialized recycling programs that turn them into other items like Trex decking.
All council members agreed the city needs to educate citizens on grocery store plastic bag recycling programs and the importance of keeping those bags out of residential recycling containers.
Councilmember Rosen did not believe North Bend’s waste was contributing to ocean pollution as the city’s waste goes into landfills. He felt they were addressing a problem North Bend wasn’t contributing to. He also felt legislation should be the last resort and education the first resource when it comes to the plastic bag issue.
Councilmembers Garcia and Kostanich spoke to the importance of the city making small changes to impact big change. Kostanich noted that plastic bags in North Bend do make it into the river and thus end up impacting the ocean. Garcia estimated 95% of the people he had spoken to about the ordinance favored banning plastic bags.
The council added amendments to the original ordinance that allow stores to charge up to 5 cents for paper bags if customers forget their reusable bags. City Administrator Londi LIndell said this charge was recommended by the county’s zero waste program which believes that without monetary fees, most shoppers will not change their habits and start using reusable bags, which is the goal of the new ordinance.
Also included in the amendment is a provision that allows retailers not to impose the fees on shoppers who utilize food assistance programs. Plastic bags used for take-out food; newspapers; pet and yard waste; garbage bags; bulk and frozen foods; hardware items; or to wrap flowers are not included in the ban.
The amended ordinance passed 4-2 with Councilmembers Garcia, Elwood Kostanich and Volken and voting in favor. Rosen and Gothelf voted against the ban. (Councilmember Loudenbeck was absent.) The decision was met with claps and cheers from some audience members.
Mayor Hearing and councilmembers thanked the public for being involved in the discussion and process.
The ordinance and ban take effect on July 1, 2019.
If you’d like to see the full discussion, you can watch the video recording of the December 4th meeting HERE. Topic discussion starts at the 19 minute mark.