Jeb Bladine: One grain of sand in environmental war

State and local governments around America are being pressured to ban carry-out plastic bags at retail establishments.

The campaign worked in McMinnville. A local ban began in September at large retailers — those over 10,000 square feet — and extends to all retail establishments March 1.

By itself, banning environmentally unfriendly plastic bags would not have generated much uproar. The major complaint is that retailers with more than 10 full-time-equivalent employees are being forced to charge at least 5 cents per carry-out paper bag. The minimum charge is 10 cents in California, home of America’s first statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags.


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

> See his column

Paper bags are biodegradable and recyclable. So, why require McMinnville retailers to aggravate their customers with those pesky 5 cent charges?

One argument I found is that people carrying reusable personal bags into shops should not have to subsidize the cost of shoppers taking advantage of free paper bags. But that idea falls flat on many levels.

I always transport bags to my car on my own. But I don’t complain about subsidizing the cost of people who receive carry-out help from store employees.

Besides, have you looked closely at the items inside your shopping bag? We all subsidize the environmental cost of excessive retail packaging.

I could support a marketplace right for stores to provide carry-out paper bags for free and set their prices accordingly. But a counterargument can be made, based on the power of symbolism and aggravation.

Government wants people to experience the add-on cost of paper bags. Government wants people to feel guilty, nickel-by-nickel, for using paper bags instead of the preferred reusable cloth bags. The easily anticipated aggravation just heightens that experience, so don’t expect environmental activists to take pity on people irate over the new bag fees.

On principle, some people will leave town to shop rather than confront the perceived Nanny State policy in McMinnville. That kind of social protest movement, however, won’t draw many followers.

Some people will take their anger out on innocent store clerks, who are charged with enforcing the new law whether they like it or not.

If you see that happen, please speak up. Self-righteousness doesn’t justify or excuse obnoxious behavior.

In the larger scheme of things, mankind’s far-reaching, mind-boggling assault on the earth’s environment dwarfs any state or local issues with shopping bags. McMinnville’s new ban on plastic bags represents little more than a grain of sand on a vast beach of environmental concerns.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.


Don Dix


Well written, with one exception.

You wrote, 'The campaign worked in McMinnville'. That might be a little misleading. 'The campaign' was not to convince voting residents to support a ban on plastic carryout bags. It was limited to 'convincing' only the city council (6 members). The question arises -- should 6 make that decision or should it be placed on a city-wide ballot?

Interaction with the public reveals there is very little support for this ordinance, including retailers, across the board. Based on the sentiment expressed in many areas (including Viewpoints, and responses in the forum), this ordinance would have gone down in flames. It is quite likely that was exactly the mindset of Zero Waste as they only 'campaigned' the council and not the general public. Wise strategy, but also quite disrespectful to avoid a vote on the issue.


Don... I think using responses from this forum or local opinion pieces is a pretty narrow gage of public sentiment.... my take is the majority of people are apathetic about the issue and will not change their habits for a nickel a bag. Only the very small percentage of highly motivated against the change( the ones that respond in forums) will actually take their business to another city. While that is a stand on their principles, financially it generally doesn’t make sense.

Jeb Bladine

There never was a citizen effort to refer the city ordinance to voters, so focus of "the campaign" was limited to the council. The council, of course, could have put the issue up to a vote.

Just in passing, I saw that in the past 12 months, articles about the plastic bag ban drew 3 of the 10 most reader comments.


Good article, except the last line. Its a principle that has been violated in McMinnville, not a bag. That is a big deal. History has proven that free-markets find the best uses resources. Plastic bags were a part of that free-market until last September. Stores chose to provide them. Customers chose whether or not to use them. All wolves start out cute and small.

Don Dix

tagup -- in my everyday activities, there have been many instances where the subject of bags has arisen. Viewpoints and forum responses only bolster the sentiment found around the city (in my experience), but, by far, are not the basis for my opinion. Personally, I haven't encountered anyone in favor of this ordinance.

If the council had put this to a city-wide vote (or it comes to one), the council would/will be dealing with a 60/40 No, and that might be generous. Many see the exclusion (of the public) just as Jeb explained -- Nanny State policy -- and would vote accordingly.

Ramsey McPhillips

Once again, no where in this article or the comments is there any mention of why the ‘Bag It Better’ ordinance is needed. I’m left to think you don’t see the reality of the plastic problem. For those that do (-40%?) here are some of the reasons once again. 1) a large part of highway litter is single use plastic bags. 2) plastic bags clog our streams and river and affect wildlife. 3) plastic bags quickly fall apart into micro particles that stay in our water and soil for a very long time. 4) plastic bags are a primary problem blowing off the landfill and accumulate in the river and two streams. 5) not using plastic or paper saves resources and money. 6) although every recycling bin is clearly marked to not include plastic bags, they are and this screws up recycling sorting machines. 7) Both Waste Management and Recology support the ban. 8) attempts ... elaborate education and sorting have not been successful in eliminating single use bags from ending up as pollution. 9) they are called “single use” plastic bags... I.e. most of them are thrown away and not recyclable... China doesn’t want them anymore. 10) we are doing this for the next generation.

I could go on... but you get the point. The assumption I am reading is you don’t care about the positive affect this ban has had on our local environment.


Ramsey McPhillips

If anyone amongst you has a better way to measurably reduce plastic, and the countless hours and money it would take then bring it on. The News Register only seems interested in the comments from The Ninny State... where are the comments on how successful the ban has been from the hauler, the mayor, the litter patrol, the tourist board, the highway adjacent farmers, the prideful school kids, thevwater steerss, etc?

What you all seem to be saying is you want to bring back the plastic problem?


Ramsey McPhillips

We must live in parallel universes... our exhaustive survey of the city - before, during and now after the enactment of the ban is that it has been largely positive. Sure, some people are shortly dismayed but when you ask them if they agree it solves a problem that needed to be fixed most all shrug and say... you’re right and “thanks for doing this.” You know who our main opposition has been? The out of State corporate heads trying to find loopholes in the ordinance who don’t have a tangible stake in McMinnville’s environment. There is great local pride in having far less plastic pollution in our community. The ban is doing what it was made to do just like forced seat belts has saved countless lives and money when it became a law.

You get 35,000 McMinnvillians to all do the right thing for the environment without any laws and I’ll be right there with you. Until then... all you old angry men (I admit, could describe me, too!) who seem to live for this comment forum need to go sit in the corner of the room and have a ‘time out’ while you think of how you can better collectively benefit the rest of the class!


Maria Von Trapp


Ramsey From the ninny state? the News Register only seems interested in the comments from The Ninny State


Ramsey I'm one of your angry old men and I don't want to set in the corner. I'll start with your seat belt comment. I don't wear a seat belt unless it's slick out or I'm on a busy freeway. My choice. I have averaged 60 to 80 thousand miles of driving per year for well over 50 years with not one accident and that includes driving big trucks and pulling big trailers. Next is my family logged for three generations and environmental people decided a owl was more important than people so now with poor management practices in national forests half the country burns up every year. I just don't like small groups of people making descions that effect the masses. If we were rid of about half the lawyers and lobbyists in this country we'd be a lot better off . I admire your passion but other people are just as passionate about their causes. I just feel we need way less government control. My best friends are loggers and ranchers and I'm tired of them getting beat up by environmentalists,government and city people. I still think what you are doing with the bag ban is the right path but it needs the masses and not the few to welcome it.


Recycling of plastic bags---since we must dispose of them in the trash, this evidently causes them to be blown about at the landfill during dumping the trash. Plus there remains the fact that bags from other than McMinnville will end up in town.

Why not treat them as we handle motor oil. Drained oil will be picked up by recycling truck if placed by the recycle bin in a closed container. Seems simple to collect the bags that are put out in a separate container by the recycle bin. A cardboard box of bags (and other plastics) can then go through the process presorted. By the way, this "Ninny", as named by McPhillips has never lost a bag to contaminate the environment. Such an elitist attitude does not help. Some public education would have helped, but this was a low key approach that was designed to ignore the public wishes.

Don Dix

Ramsey -- So, with all chatter (by you), where is the explanation as to why this issue was not put to a vote? Excluding the voters might have been clever, but obviously not the brightest move. This is a constitutional federal republic, not an oligarchy.

Name-calling and disparaging comments play about as well as time outs. Both are a feeble attempt at control, and seldom work.

Jeb Bladine

Be careful of those blinders, Ramsay. You're so accustomed to criticizing the News-Register that you overlook the article's underlying thesis of "environmentally unfriendly plastic bags," and then blame us because readers haven't pasted enough pro-ban comments.

Still, this all seems like a good topic for a Community Survey going out to N-R readers -- If anyone has a specific multiple-choice question you would like to recommend, it will be considered.

Jeb Bladine

Ramsey McPhillips

Jeb, I think the paper is an Invaluable asset that this community is lucky to have. But you must admit the tone of your article was skewed towards the negative and attempted to downgrade our effort. Grain of sand or symbolically worthy?

And, you must admit that the comments are from a perpetual nay sayers group. Same old same old. I know you’ve tried to get more people to respond - me too. Not easy, so I feel left out here in the cold to defend a more uplifting narrative by a part of the community that actively cares. Once again, you and your reporter mentioned all the negative stuff, interviewed your go to nemesis (me) but left out the positive business stakeholders as well as the 6 people who actually did vote on the ban.

And finally, broken record here... what happens if this were ever recinded... does no one amongst you wish to tip the hour glass of the power of journalist opinion to perpetuate solutions to environmental problems? I guess what I’m sayong Jeb, is I’m sorry you didn’t use your editorial chops to also talk about the true up side the plastic ban is having on this community’s quality of life. I just don’t think the comment section of the paper is a representative crossection of public opinion and am trying (obviously miserably) to bring (defend) insight from someone who is actually in the trenches on this subject.

Ramsey McPhillips

Oh, Don.. to answer your question about a vote. Votes are always very expensive and time consuming. Outside money would flood in and skew the results. We had a goal to solve a specific pollution problem. We surveyed (over and over again) the major stakeholders and worked within the city’s framework and goals to solve the problem. It appears you are not concerned about the problem. Not everyone cares about the environment and are fine with plastic’s negative affects. To each his own.

As for your pointed comments about name calling and bring despatiging. Have you re read your comments about me personally? Lots of name calling and disparaging.

I have no beef with you or your politics. Just trying to move
The community towards a more sustainable clean environment. You’re welcome to join us anytime!

Don Dix

Ramsey -- Personally, the only beef with you would be tactics, nothing more.

Jeb explained about the 'could have done its' to place this on a ballot. The council and Zero Waste, independently I assume, decided arbitrarily to bypass the basic foundation of this country. That's OK with you?

Money tactic?? That has never been a deterrent when congesting the court system with endless appeals by your associates, so why now?

And since the results of a vote, in your estimation, might be 'skewed' (apparently to your dismay), the residents shouldn't decide? The elimination of compromising hazards, activities, and exposures that may have negative affects -- better known as 'risk avoidance'. As stated previously, 'tactics'!


Well, I’ll speak up in favor of the ban. I’ve had my cloth bags for years. I’ve been trying to positively change my habits on my own, with mixed results. The ban was the push I needed to make a change. I’m proud that McMinnville is on the right track with this!

Ramsey McPhillips

“Money tactic?? That has never been a deterrent when congesting the court system with endless appeals by your associates, so why now?“

Pretty sure you are making my point with that statement.?”my associates” are local, the money for the expansion of the dump... in the millions is from “outside interests.” It’ skewed the election we had and it once skewed opinion to advance expansion. Not any longer. City left and Metro left over the very reasons I presented in 2007. all our appeals have been for the same thing over and over again... compatibility of the landfill to surrounding farmland. It’s the out of state interests who keep coming back over and over with very creative attempts to skirt the law that we have to rein in over and over. We are not throwing spaghetti against the wall. They are. I was right on the same short laws in 2007 that I am in 2018... it’s given them more time to pollute, I’ll give them that! It should have been shut by now especially since real time cost fears have been proven to be essentially immaterial to the argument.,

The only first hand “money tactic” I can report is I’m broke from fight a corporate giant and am very very grateful to the local monied interests who care so much about farmland and our water/river.


Once upon a time, a village decided it would no longer dump its garbage in some far-off pit in the hills. No, the villagers thought, we’ll dump our stinky offal next to the stream running through our town. It’s much closer and, besides, the villager who owns the dumping land actually wants our trash. It’ll feed his swine! No more uphill trudges lugging carts of rubbish — and a herd of pigs will squeal with delight at our clever largesse!

For many years the villagers were content to pile their garbage next to the stream, building a fetid mountain from which all the land could be seen. The villagers didn’t mind the stench of their monstrous mesa and they’d learned to ignore the ugly shadow it cast. They’d heard such dumping could result in fouled and lifeless waters but the villagers didn’t care — they loved the ease of their hideous mound.

One day, a stranger appeared in the village. The stranger warned the villagers of building a pyramid of filth next to their river — that they might someday pay a price they hadn’t considered. At first, the villagers laughed. When they understood the stranger was serious, their mood darkened — many went to collect torches and pitchforks. More restrained, the village elders decided belittling the stranger and demanding village-wide votes would be enough — they knew shouting loud and long enough would let them keep their precious pile. After all, the real villain was some crazy stranger trying to get them to change their time-honored ways.

After an exhausting battle, the stranger decided he might best convince the villagers on a lesser scale. Maybe the villagers would give up their beloved plastic sacks — you know, the ones littering the roadsides leading to the village. Perhaps they could see the benefit? Surely they... Suddenly, the villagers carved the stranger up, placed his pieces in plastic bags and deposited them atop their reeking mountain. The end.


Trafik, I believe a group of pigs is a "sounder of swine."
Might the "stranger" in your analogy be a masquerading Jesus?
The elders demanded a village-wide vote. In fact, that one step precisely describes what people in McMinnville wanted: the opportunity to be heard fairly. Better to be asked than ordered.


Dang. No matter, the sentence originally indicated squeals of delight from both the villagers and the pigs but I elected to tone down the level of insult. One must pay a price for sloppy edits from time to time.

And while Jesus no doubt understands the correlation between the plastic bags and the dump, I'd never elevate wanderers to savior status — no matter how saintly they've lived.

Finally, Lulu, I'm disappointed you fail to understand that being gently ordered is sometimes better than resisting change for no other reason than 'this is the way we've always done things.' Those who think learning to take along cloth bags or making do with nickel-paper-bags are wrath-deserving problems might need to reexamine their priorities.


Did the villagers not perpetrate homicide? Where were the village police? After all, there is no statute of limitations on murder. Oh well, the stakeholders undoubtedly will succumb to dysentery, louse-borne typhus, tuberculosis and plague before authorities decide something should be done and sell them nickel paper bags to clean up the mess. [Isn't the term "gently ordered" a contradiction?]


I'm fairly certain daybreak cries of "bring out your dead!" will not be followed by polite queries for paper or plastic but I could be wrong. Perhaps the villagers will be encouraged to provide their own gently-used bags of repose. As to your suggested oxymoron, I'll take a brusque "that'll be five cents, sir" over a kreischer "raus! schnell!" followed by the sting of a riding crop any day.


Plastic bags, and plastic in general is destroying this planet.

That’s undisputed fact.

We had better figure out how to stop living like our resources are infinite, before its to late.

Otherwise Mother Nature will destroy the plague that humanity has become.

It seems a race to see if we strip the planet of all its resources, or pollute it to death.

Neither is particularly pleasant, and the tipping point may have already happened.

Bring a reusable bag, or pay. Best get over it, just like the bottle deposit.

I saw some giant man screaming at some poor cashier the other day over it, complete with spittle. Completely ridiculous.


This now weekly exercise, in which the publisher plays host to the same half dozen readers angry about the bag ban, is beginning to take on the appearance of click pimping. I realize that print news is facing a precarious future, and must adopt new strategies to engage readers. But I'd be concerned that any slide into demagoguery invites precisely the kind of decline in meaningful reader engagement that it is intended to remedy. Other than Ramsey McPhillips comments I don't see much effort to really lean in and engage with the underlying issues that this ordinance seeks to address. And I'm saddened to say that includes the editorial above. There are better arguments to be made in opposition to this ordinance than logical fallacies and appeals to frontier mythology.

None of us are independent. We all depend on each other. And we all depend on healthy planet to sustain us. We are in community with each other. We are in community with this planet - the only one. These things aren't tied to identity or ideology. They define our existence now and into the future. We can certainly disagree. But can't we at least be kinder and smarter about it? Because like it or not, our fate even as rugged individualists is still tied to the average of our community.

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