Editorial: Statewide bag ban right call
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Editorial: Statewide bag ban right call

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Editor’s note: The following editorial originally appeared Dec. 8 in the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald.

We have mixed feelings about Oregon’s new plastic bag ban, but ultimately we support the law, which is set to take effect in January.

That’s right, residents of Albany, Lebanon, Sweet Home and other communities: If you live anywhere in Oregon, “single-use” plastic bags won’t be an option offered at checkout when you go to the grocery store and many other locations starting in 2020. Customers can choose to purchase a paper bag for at least 5 cents, however.

The bag ban isn’t new for Corvallis, which passed its own prohibition on single-use carryout bags in July 2012, becoming the second city in Oregon to do so.

The process to create Corvallis’ bag ban was contentious, though it also contained a touch of the ridiculous. A “Bag Monster” with a costume made entirely out of plastic bags attended meetings, like some fever dream of a knockoff “Scooby-Doo” villain hell-bent on providing public testimony. (“And I would have gotten away with it, too, if not for you pesky City Council members!”)

The venom about the bag ban continued even after the local law passed. A recall effort regarding the ordinance ultimately failed due to a lack of verified signatures, which in turn prompted unsupported accusations of shenanigans.

Fast-forward to this week, and the controversy has largely disappeared. On Monday night, the Corvallis City Council voted unanimously to repeal the local bag ban, as the state law trumps ordinances passed earlier in several communities throughout Oregon.

An article published in Wednesday’s paper noted the differences between Corvallis’ ban and the new state law, which we consider relatively minor.

Of course, the change in January won’t seem insignificant to Linn County residents, or those living in rural Benton County. We expect more heated rhetoric about the state law as it takes effect. But the good news is that shoppers throughout the mid-Willamette Valley eventually will get used to it and adapt.

Many Corvallis residents and visitors who frequently shop there often carry reusable fabric or heavy plastic bags in their cars, and members of our editorial board are among them. Of course, we also grumble about paying 5 cents if we forget our reusable bags, and shuffle off to our vehicles carrying an armful of goods.

(We wish that paper bags remained a free option for shoppers, seeing as how they’re easy to use, easy to recycle and benefit Oregon’s economy. Timber jobs are still good jobs, especially locally.)

And there’s more grumpiness because the single-use plastic bags aren’t, in reality, used only a single time by many residents. They become lunch bags, or bathroom or kitchen garbage can liners, or bags for litter box Almond Roca before making their way into our big garbage bins. Many pet owners now will have to buy poop bags for their critters for the first time ever.

So, yes, the state’s bag ban will be an inconvenience for some mid-valley residents and a small additional burden for the pocketbook.

But we also know that we have a plastic pollution problem. If you need a sobering dose of reality, search our websites for articles on the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Locally, you often can spot plastic bags tangled in shrubs, trees and powerlines, blowing down the street or floating in waterways. You might be responsible with plastic bags, but many people aren’t.

Facebook experts like to argue that other nations are worse polluters than the United States, but that doesn’t apply with plastic bags. Among the numerous countries with plastic bag bans are China and India. The United States, and even Oregon, is late to the party.

According to the Earth Policy Institute, Americans use about 100 billion plastic bags each year, or about one per day per person. The recycling rate on these bags is very low, according to various sources, so most of the bags are thrown away. And even if properly disposed of, this trash will take hundreds of years to break down into small pieces of microplastic that will continue to pollute the environment.

The ban on plastic bags is only one part of the solution to our plastic problem, but any step in the right direction is a welcome one. After all, one-time-use bags are forever.

Tis the season to watch for car prowlers

Editor’s note: The following editorial originally appeared Dec. 4 in the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald.

While you’re out completing your holiday shopping and tackling other errands in crowded parking lots this December, it’s best to protect your valuables.

Vehicle break-ins — often called “car prowls” in our public safety log — tend to increase during the holidays, according to local law enforcement, and that’s understandable. After all, criminals like presents, too. Especially when they’re left in your automobile in plain sight.

These sort of crimes happen throughout the year, so safety tips can be useful no matter the month. The Albany Police Department, for example, saw an uptick in car prowl cases in November that was completely unrelated to the holidays.

Often, the vehicles that are targeted in car clouts are unsecured. That’s a familiar theme for fans of the “cops logs.” More than 80 percent of unlawful entry of a motor vehicle cases in Albany involved unlocked cars and pickups, according to the Albany Police Department. Similar figures also apply throughout the mid-valley.

We read about people losing valuables from their rigs when they leave them for just a minute or two. Going inside a convenience store to buy a soda? Lock your car.

Also, if you’re defrosting your windows of your vehicle on a chilly morning and your vehicle is running, resist the urge to put it in neutral and go back into the house for another cup of coffee or to watch SportsCenter for just a little while longer. Don’t leave your auto unattended for even a moment. Every year, cars are stolen under that exact scenario in Linn and Benton counties.

Agencies sometimes deal with broken windows during car prowls, but in those cases, a purse, backpack, duffel bag or other item usually has been left on a seat in plain sight. This time of year, it’s often a collection of just-purchased Christmas gifts.

A note on bags in cars: You might know there’s nothing valuable inside, but crooks don’t, and they’ll take a risk to see if they can hit the jackpot and score a computer or something else valuable.

Some people think they’re clever by throwing a blanket over items left in vehicles, but that also attracts criminals, according to law enforcement officials Crooks can spot the lumps underneath the blanket and your clumsy attempt to hide something. And that something must be pretty darn good if you’re making the effort to conceal it.

Porch pirates also can use the holidays to snatch packages containing cyber deals. Track your packages and remove them from outside as soon as possible. If you’re regularly using online retailers or getting boxes delivered by the U.S. Post Office, UPS or FedEx, consider installing a doorbell security camera or other video monitor.

Over the next few weeks, Albany Police Department volunteers will head out to local parking lots and place air fresheners on vehicles reminding owners to “Lock it or lose it.” The air fresheners also have information about APD’s “9 p.m. routine” campaign. At that hour of night, residents are urged to bring valuables inside, check their mail, close garage doors, lock vehicles and their home, and turn on outside lights.

It’s a valuable reminder to protect yourself from crime, no matter the season.

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