Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: Plastic bag ban is a flyaway idea

By From page A2 | September 04, 2013

Just found out that one of my favorite towns in the world, Corvallis, Ore., tackled the plastic bag issue recently and came up with a solution that has residents scratching their heads. The city of Davis Natural Resources Commission will no doubt soon be undertaking a fact-finding mission to Corvallis to learn all about it.

I learned about the Corvallis bag ordinance because I visited there recently and was asked by the kind clerk at Safeway if I’d like to “buy some bags” for my groceries.

Considering I had more than I could carry in my bare hands and my motel room was nearly a dozen blocks away, I asked her how much a bag costs.

“Depends on what you want,” she said matter-of-factly.

“What are my choices?” I responded.

“Twenty cents for plastic, 5 cents for paper,” came the answer.

“Um,” I said with hesitation, wondering if the in-store security camera video would somehow make it’s way back to Davis. “I guess I’ll take paper.”

The clerk allowed that she thought the new ordinance was “crazy,” and she was mad that “the city council wouldn’t even let us vote on it.” She was certain it wouldn’t have survived a vote of the people, but you never know.

I wasn’t entirely sure of the reason for the price differential between paper and plastic in Corvallis, but they do make a whole bunch of paper bags in Oregon, so maybe they’re trying to actually get residents to use paper instead of plastic. I did not see any cloth bags for sale, but I may have just missed them while trying to cram as many items as possible into my newly purchased brown paper bags.

In Davis, of course, the council is considering a complete ban on plastic bags in the grocery store, with the option of buying a paper bag for 10 cents. Or you can just ride your bicycle up and down the grocery aisles and place everything directly into the bike basket.

All of this is designed, of course, to cut down on the number of imaginary plastic bags that are blowing night and day up and down the streets of Davis.

Being as offended by litter as the next guy, I remember a plastic bag primer put out by our Public Works Department that I printed for easy reference some months ago.

Covering such pressing topics as “Fun Ways to Reuse Plastic Bags,” “Caring for Your Reusable Bags” and “What to do if you find a plastic bag,” I pulled it out the other day to refresh my memory as to exactly what this crusade is all about, wondering if the Corvallis Public Works Department has issued a similar memo.

Under “What to do if you find a plastic bag,” I learned that “Since plastic bags are lightweight, it is easy for them to escape the garbage can or landfill.”

Not my plastic bags. I keep them under lock and key and guard them with a shotgun at all times to prevent any thought they may have of escaping. If we go on vacation, we hire a bag sitter to keep an eye on them.

Asks the city, “What should you do if you encounter a flyaway bag?”

Good question. I suppose animal control is not in play here, so I guess I’d call 9-1-1 and report an emergency.

According to the city, the first thing I can do when I encounter a flyaway bag is to “reuse the bag.” But wait, I didn’t use it in the first place. It was just taking a temporary break on my front lawn on its way to Dixon.

“Take it back to the store to be recycled.” Great, but which store am I supposed to take it back to?

“Encourage stores to stop giving out bags for free.”

Apparently, plastic bags that you actually pay for are incapable of turning into “flyaway” bags.

“If it’s dirty or wet and can’t be reused or recycled, tie it into knots and place in the trash so it won’t blow away as easily.”

Which gives me an idea. Instead of tying ourselves in knots, why not require that all plastic bags be tied in knots before being placed in the trash in the first place?

Then we can stop arguing about the necessity of a bag ban and get on to discussing the truly important issues in town.

Like fluoride, water rates, road diets, parcel taxes, cannery housing and Aggie football.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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