Group aims to ban plastic bags in Oregon one city at a time

TIGARD, Ore. - A group that wants to ban single-use plastic bags across Oregon is back on the offensive.

Advocacy group Environment Oregon failed at the statewide level two years ago. Since then the group has been targeting individual cities.

On Tuesday, members delivered petitions to city councils in Tigard, Beaverton and Lake Oswego.

"Because we knew the public was with us, we decided to change our strategy and start working city by city," said director Sarah Higginbotham, who claims the statewide ban effort was derailed by lobbyists who represent plastic bag makers across the country.

In a new poll by Survey USA conducted for KATU News, 29 percent of voters polled said they thought plastic bags should be illegal in Oregon, while 58 percent believed they should be legal. Twelve percent said they were not sure. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.

When asked how often the primary grocery shopper in their family uses reusable shopping bags, 38 percent of those polled said "regularly." Twenty percent said "occasionally" and 43 percent said "almost never."

Joining the Environment Oregon group at Tuesday's news conferences was a man dressed in a costume made of about 500 plastic bags. The group calls him the "Bag Monster."

"I represent the average human use of bags per year," said the Bag Monster. "It makes an impression on 'em. Just for the fact that it's a lot to carry."

"Most people don't even think about it. Most people have a drawer full of bags in their kitchen and they all pop out," Higginbotham said. "But when you put them all in one place for one year, it's a really good way to explain the enormity of the problem."

The city of Portland has already banned single-use plastic bags in an effort to get shoppers to switch to reusable grocery bags.

"In the last year three cities in Oregon have stepped up. The two largest, Portland and Eugene, and Corvallis as well," said Higginbotham.

Environment Oregon plans to lobby more cities before they go for another statewide ban. The soonest they could do that would be in 2015.

Oregonians use more than 1.7 billion plastic bags per year, Higginbotham said.