Single-use plastic bag ban is coming back in Newport

Paper bags and reusable plastic bags have reappeared at most area grocery stores, with a Newport city ordinance banning single-use bags set to be enforced again at the end of March. (Photo by Kenneth Lipp)

NEWPORT — The Newport City Council voted Tuesday night to resume enforcement of its ban on single-use plastic bags at the end of next month.

Beginning March 31, Newport establishments larger than 10,000 square feet will again be prohibited from providing single-use plastic bags. Enforcement for businesses smaller than 10,000 square feet begins May 1. The prohibition applies to restaurants, retail and grocery stores.

Enforcement of the ordinance was suspended last spring at the encouragement of Gov. Kate Brown’s office, the League of Oregon Cities and Oregon Association of Oregon Counties, as well as the Northwest Grocery Association, an industry interest group.

“Due to the high volume of customers at grocery stores, some stores are experiencing limited supplies of paper bags and reusable bags,” reads an April 2020 memo from the league and association. “During this state of emergency, grocery stores may need to utilize thinner plastic bags due to supply shortages.”

Updated guidance issued in January encouraged reusable bag use, immediate enforcement of the requirement that retail stores charge customers at least five cents for paper and other checkout bags, and discretion on enforcement of the ban on single-use bags in situations where a supply shortage is out of the retailer’s control.

In his report to city council during its regular meeting Tuesday night, City Manager Spencer Nebel said he believed it would be appropriate for the city to renew enforcement for large stores March 31 and smaller businesses on June 1.

Councilor Ryan Parker said he thought they should begin enforcement earlier for larger retailers. “I appreciate the spirit of downstreaming these dates, but I think we need to realize that Safeway and Walmart — Safeway has stores in two continents, and Walmart has probably the most profitable business model in American history — have multiple locations in multiple counties and multiple states and can ship that inventory on their trucks with absolutely zero effort or additional cost,” Parker said. He said he’d like enforcement to begin March 1 for large stores and May 1 for the remainder.

Parker also mentioned that he’d like the city to encourage retailers to offer higher-quality reusable bags, rather than the “4 mil” plastic bags many use at check out. 

Councilor CM Hall said, “I’m with you that they can just transport it out, but we should just offer courtesy notification to give them a little more time.” Councilor Aaron Collett said he agreed with Hall.

Councilor Dietmar Goebel said he also wanted to give retailers more notice but would support moving the deadline for smaller businesses up to May 1. Parker read a motion to that effect, which was seconded by Councilor Beatriz Botello and unanimously carried.

Violation of the city’s bag ordinance incurs a $100 fine for the first incident during a calendar year and $250 for every subsequent violation during a calendar year.

In a related matter, the council voted to craft a new ordinance prohibiting plastic foam to-go containers during its May 17 work session and consider it for approval in July. If passed, the ordinance would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022, at the earliest.


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