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Jeb Bladine: Bag charge seems like gentle reminder

An editorial today urges the city of McMinnville to stand firm with the 5-cent charge on paper bags at retail locations. It’s a “ho-hum” issue for some people, but others maintain it’s a reason to boycott local businesses.

Here’s my own experience with the controversy: I spent $138 at a grocery store for items that ended up in two paper bags plus a few bulky packages. I put it all in a walk-out shopping cart and never once stopped to consider the injustice. It cost me 10 cents.

I’m not sure I would have stopped to pick up a dime in the parking lot if one had appeared on the asphalt.

It never occurred to me that I should boycott the local retail community to avoid the ban. I did later remember I had paid $1.20 as deposit on beverage containers, despite knowing we likely would recycle them from home or give them to someone to redeem at time-consuming return machines.

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Retailers fueled the run-up of plastic bags to save money; consumers responded because reusing those bags was a home convenience; over time, around the world, growing environmental concerns about plastic bags spawned passionate political clashes with proponents of the lightweight carriers.

California first banned plastic bags in 2014, mandating 10-cent charges on paper bags. While awaiting a California vote, Hawaii became the first state to enact a ban on plastic. Since then, the political landscape has become littered with related state and local controversies.

One idea involves required charges on all bags, which significantly reduces consumer use of either. Other strategies, as currently enacted in McMinnville, ban plastic while ordering a charge for paper bags. One oft-cited justification for that plan holds that people using personal carryout bags should not have to subsidize shoppers relying on store-provided paper bags.

Elsewhere, there are bans on plastic that prohibit charges for paper bags.

Arizona lawmakers responded to local ordinances by enacting a state law that prohibits cities from banning plastic bags, then went to war with one city refusing to comply. Today, there are calls in Arizona for a statewide ban.

Speaking for myself, the mandatory 5-cent charge for paper bags doesn’t seem like a massive assault on human rights. It’s more like a gentle reminder of society’s need to reduce excess consumption of resources while protecting against proliferation of environmental pollution.

That’s an issue for a larger stage.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsreigster.com or 503-687-1222.

Comments

Rotwang

It isn't the nickel. It's the principle of standing against micromanaging government. I don't need a gentle reminder of any kind from them.

Jeb Bladine

In Ireland, a levy on plastic bags initiated back in 2001 caused a 90 percent reduction in use; government knows that tobacco taxes are the most effective way to reducing smoking; we get tax incentives to buy houses and give to charities; we pay deposits to encourage recycling cans and bottles; we buckle up seat belts; we strap kids into car seats and put helmets on their heads for bicycling. Not all government reminders are gentle, such as laws on drinking and driving. The 5-cent bag charge has plenty of company on the scale of hundreds (thousands?) of government taxes, fees, financial benefits and marketing campaigns seeking to impact behavior.

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