GLENEDEN BEACH — Rotarians and guests made their way to Salishan Resort for a lunch and talk on Wednesday, when the Lincoln City Rotary Club hosted a panel discussion on the topic of a potential bag ban in Lincoln City.
On the panel were Lincoln City City Councilor Riley Hoagland, North Lincoln Sanitary Service president Tina French and Surfrider Foundation’s Oregon Field Manager, Briana Goodwin. Each candidate was given the opportunity to deliver a brief opening statement before the group began fielding questions from the audience. Hoagland expressed the issue of single-use plastics has been an important one to him for quite some time, and the impact on marine life and wildlife was the most important to him, personally. French explained she wanted to make sure whatever decision was made was “an educated and scientific decision, not an emotional one.” Goodwin listed her experience working with Surfrider and noted that she is currently working with six cities to establish plastic bag ordinances in those communities, as well as supporting the state ban that is going through the legislature currently.
A recurring topic of discussion during the question and answer section was the challenge of weighing the environmental impacts of the beginning of a bag’s life against the end; production pollution versus biodegradability.
“My personal opinion is, if we’re going to ban the bag: ban the bag,” said French. “I don’t care whether it’s paper or plastic, because the environmental impacts of going to paper increase exponentially over plastic bags. And I understand that plastic bags blow away and a paper bag disintegrates on the street or on the beach, but the energy and water and chemical consumption for paper bags is too great to move to paper from plastic, in my opinion.”
French also pointed out that reusable bags have the same front end environmental as hundreds of plastic bags, with the number varying based on the type of material the bag is made from.
“I don’t want to be doing something just for the sake of doing something. If we’re going to make a decision to do something, let’s make sure it’s the right environmental decision for all environmental things — not just litter.”
Hoagland commented that plastic bags are killing animals who ingest them, while paper bags are not, but that the discussion is more nuanced than debating paper or plastic.
“There’s a lot of different ways you can cut it, depending which way you want to stand,” said Hoagland, “and it’s not about, ‘it only has to be paper’ or ‘it only has to be plastic.’ We live in a time where you have a multitude of options, including the price for the bags.”
Hoagland also commented that a ban would not eliminate all single use plastic bags, because produce bags are not targeted in these bans. Ultimately, he said, it is the grocery checkout counter where the ban would make a difference.
“We haven’t even touched upon retail establishments or restaurants, and so there’s a lot more than just grocery bags,” he said.
The debate continued later, however, when French asked Goodwin why there was so much effort being put toward banning plastic bags when they were fifth on the list of most common litter items found on the beach, rather than targeting cigarette butts — which are number one on that list and contain harmful microplastics.
Goodwin answered that there have been efforts to ban cigarettes on the beach, but they have not been successful. However, Surfrider does provide many educational resources as well as an opt-in service to provide cigarette butt disposal canisters to businesses and cities who request them: the Hold On To Your Butt campaign. But the biggest reasons she gave for pursuing bags are threefold.
“Because it’s something that communities have been asking for, it’s something that is attainable and that some businesses are onboard with,” said Goodwin. “With cigarette butts, we just haven’t been able to pass laws address those. We have tried, including in other states.”
This 45-minute talk was only a preliminary discussion on the topic of bag bans, however, and there will still be plenty more discussion to be had if the Lincoln City City Council does decide to follow suit with Newport and pursue a bag ban.