Ashland moves toward banning plastic bags

Plastic bags may get the boot from Ashland this spring.

The City Council in a study session Monday directed staff members to work with the Ashland Conservation Commission in crafting an ordinance that would ban plastic bags. It could come before the council for debate and possible adoption by March 2014.

Ashland resident Cheryl Carlich came to the study session dressed in a costume made from 500 plastic bags — the amount the group Environment Oregon says each person uses each year.

The group has helped win bans in Portland, Eugene and Corvallis. It asked Ashland to consider such a ban in July. The council referred the issue to the Conservation Commission for research and recommendations.

"I think it's great that they are willing to move forward," Carlich said.

Councilor Pam Marsh cautioned that she wouldn't want a ban to be overly onerous for businesses. She recommended exempting smaller businesses and keeping stores' reporting requirements on the ban's impact to a minimum.

Councilors said educating people to switch to reusable market bags would be a key part of any effort.

Conservation Commission Chairman Mark Weir said Ashland should also consider requiring stores to charge a fee for paper bags. Otherwise, consumers will just use paper bags instead of reusable bags, he said.

Weir said paper bags require more energy to produce than plastic bags and still require the cutting of trees, though many bags also use recycled material.

Some cities with plastic bag bans have required stores to charge 5 to 25 cents per paper bag.

Some Ashland businesses have already discontinued plastic bags, including the Ashland Food Co-op, Shop'n Kart, Market of Choice and Albertsons.

— Vickie Aldous

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