1) Bans single-use plastic bags of less than 2.25 mils thickness from all point-of-sale locations in Corvallis. This includes biodegradable bags;
2) Excludes single-use bags at "establishments where the primary business is the preparation of food or drink;"
3) Excludes plastic bags other than at check-out, so plastic in produce, meat, or frozen food sections of grocery stores are okay;
4) Excludes pharmacy prescription bags.
5) Gives large retailers (more than 50 employees) 6 months to implement, and small retailers one year to implement;
6) Requires retailers to assess a minimum 5-cent per paper bag fee on the consumer. This fee is retained by the retailer to "offset" the cost of the bag;
7) Establishes $200 fines on retailers for handing out plastic bags at the check-out stand - for each bag.
Of course, the goal of the proponents of this ban is to have everyone bring a reusable bag with them to the store. If everyone did this, every retailer in Corvallis would save a lot of money because they wouldn't have to buy bags or store them. Realistically though that won't happen because we are, after all, human, and because we have a lot of visitors to Corvallis who won't know about this ban and won't bring their own bags. Also, new OSU students will need to be educated about the ban and will need bags to carry their purchases to their new homes.
What this does to small retailers is simple: it increases their costs. The representative from the Northwest Grocers Association told Council that plastic bags cost them 2-cents, and paper bags cost about 4 1/2-cents. That is because they have the advantage of very high volume. Each large grocery store doesn't buy their own bags; they have the advantage of supply-chain and parent companies that can purchase in bulk driving down their costs. Small retailers on the other hand probably DO buy their bags themselves, and in much, much smaller quantity. My on-line research shows that in 1000 bag quantities, plastic bags cost 4-cents each, and paper bags cost 30-cents each. Do the math. The ordinance just cost a small mom-and-pop grocery store - even with the 5-cent pass-through fee, which they can keep - 25-cents per bag.
Of course the ordinance also allows some "flexibility" to increase the per-bag charge, in an effort to "level the
playing field." So let's say mom-and-pop raise their fee to cover their costs.They now charge 30-cents for each bag. That, of course, puts them at a disadvantage in comparison to other stores.
Advocates say "just bring your own bag." True enough, but there are many who have voiced concerns about
cleanliness - not of their own bags, of course. However, it is realistic to assume that every bag that gets placed on the checkout counter isn't freshly washed. In a lively on-line discussion on this topic recently, a grocery store
checker was describing reuseable bags that appear on their counters, filled with dirt, garbage, and questionable items. Some of what they said they encountered was not only unhygenic but downright disgusting. Another factor of being human - we don't all have they same idea of what "clean" means. And that means that unwelcome things can be transferred to the counter.
Some points on this debate:
1) Plastic bags are made primarily from natural gas, not petroleum;
2) Paper bags cost more to manufacture, transport, and store than plastic;
3) Most reusable bags (including Chico bags, supplier of the Bag Monster) are manufactured in China;
4) Most plastic bags are manufactured in the US;
5) Manufacturing paper bags takes more energy, more petroleum, and more BTUs than plastic;
6) The City reallly doesn't have staff to monitor or enforce this ban, except through complaints from the public.
For the record, the Chamber has not taken a position for or against plastic bags. We are interested in maintaining a healthy regulatory environment for businesses that ensure consumer choice and a vibrant local economy. We want to create policy that attracts shoppers and businesses to Corvallis. We want Corvallis to be business-friendly.
So, the record is left open on this ban until the July 2nd Council meeting, and amendments can be made. What suggestions do you have? We'd love to hear some new ideas.