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State bag ban will bring changes for Corvallis

State bag ban will bring changes for Corvallis

The bag ban, which roiled Corvallis politics in 2012, is back in the news.

The Corvallis City Council voted unanimously on Monday night to repeal the single use plastic carryout bags ordinance that councilors passed in July, 2012.

Councilors, however, had no choice but to act and the issue will continue to be in force, if not aggressively enforced, in town.

The change was mandated by the state of Oregon, which adopted House Bill 2509. The bill, which was signed June 20 by Governor Kate Brown, institutes a statewide law on plastic bags, which trumps earlier ordinances passed in numerous communities throughout the state. The new law takes effect Jan. 1.

Here is a look at the differences between the two regulations, according to the staff report that the Public Works Department prepared for Monday’s meeting:

• Corvallis requires that paper bags be compostable. The state of Oregon does not.

• Corvallis requires that reusable bags be 2.25 mils thick. The state requires reusable plastic checkout bags to be 4 mils thick. Note that a mil is one-thousandth of an inch. The most common plastic in use is 6 mils.

• The state has a broader range of exceptions for plastic bags provided at a time other than checkout, including those for frozen foods, flowers, plants, baked goods or newspaper bags.

• Corvallis provides an exemption from the rules for those using vouchers issued under the Women, Infants and Children program. The state exempts this program as well as those using an electronic benefits transfer card issued by the Oregon Department of Human Services.

• Corvallis does not place any restrictions on restaurants. The state restricts restaurants from providing single-use checkout bags or reusable plastic checkout bags to customers unless the restaurant charges at least five cents for each reusable plastic checkout bag.

Both the city of Corvallis and the state require that retail establishments charge at least five cents for each recycled paper checkout bag or reusable bag sold. The collection requirement and proceeds from the fee remain with the retail establishment.

HB 2509 calls for the state Department of Environmental Quality to levy civil penalties of up to $250 per day for violations, but aggressive enforcement efforts seem unlikely.

Enforcement of the Corvallis ban began in 2013. The ordinance was amended in 2013 to make it easier for some merchants to continue to use large inventories of specialty bags. No one was ever fined or sanctioned for a Corvallis bag ban violation.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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