NEWPORT — The Newport City Council scheduled a public hearing for March 4 to get feedback on a draft ordinance banning single-use plastic carry-out bags.
Representatives of the Newport chapter of the Surfrider Foundation came to the city council last month requesting the city take up a plastic bag ordinance prohibiting them, an action many other cities across the state have in recent years.
“I know I heard comments from people that didn’t know anything about it,” said Councilor Beatriz Botello. “With some of the Latino community, they said they didn’t know this was happening and they got excited. I think it’s important to wait and see if we can get more people to give us their opinion.”
The last time the issue came before the council several years ago, the city’s governing body decided to refer it out for a vote by residents of the city. The ban was defeated 1,486 to 1,112 in 2013.
Since that time, however, many recyclable materials exported by the United States to China stopped going overseas when China stopped accepting several types of solid waste, including items like low-grade plastic bags often given out in American grocery stores. As a result, there’s nowhere now for these plastic bags to go.
The draft ordinance city staff wrote up for council deliberation on Monday includes a provision requiring a pass-through cost of five cents per recyclable paper bag. That provision also states if a store makes a reusable paper bag available to customers, no less than 50 cents per bag be charged.
The ordinance, if eventually passed, would not apply to retail stores smaller than 5,000 square feet. A reusable or recyclable paper bag must be provided to customers who present vouchers from the Women, Infants and Children program, run by Lincoln County.
While many members of the public in attendance at the last two city council meetings voiced overwhelming support for a plastic bag ban in Newport, some members of the city council felt most comfortable holding off on a vote until after at least one public hearing.
“I don’t really have any problem with trying to look at an ordinance,” said Dietmar Goebel, city councilor. “I like the idea of creating a work group and getting the stakeholders around the table to talk about this issue. There’s a diversity of feelings in the community about what to do.”