Is There Hope for Portlands Plastic Bag Ban?

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The Portland, OR "Bring Your Bag" Campaign Logo.

Bring your bag! Last month Portland, Oregon became one of a growing set of American cities to ban plastic bags. The city had waited for the 2011 state legislature to act on a state-wide ban. No action was taken and the city council voted unanimously on July 21 to ban plastic bags. In an effort to remind citizens and visitors of Portland of the pending ban The Oregonian explained which local business would be affected. “Supermarkets with $2 million or more in gross annual sales such as Safeway, Albertsons and QFC, plus retailers of at least 10,000 square feet that have pharmacies, such as Target, Walmart, Walgreens and Rite Aid.” The city gave out 10,000 reusable bags and major retailers also offered free reusable bags, yet it seems unlikely that this band will change consumer behavior.

Why? Paper bags are an expensive alternative to plastic. It was reported in the same Oregonian article that paper bags would cost an extra $12 million per year. This cost is likely to be put back on the consumers, and added costs are not always enough to alter behavior. Yet there is hope even without a campaign to change consumer behavior. According to a study by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research (Berkeley, CA), Portland is one of the the most liberal cities in America. This matters because if a plastic bag ban and increased fees for not using a reusable bag cannot change social norms in a mostly liberal city, the chance it will work elsewhere is slim. For now we just have to wait and see how Portland reacts to this change. It isn’t the first city to take this route, but it will be a great case study for future decisions to ban plastic bags.

What is your price limit before you would bring your own bags? Is an added cost really going to change behavior in Portland? Comment below!

 

Kyle Walsh

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