FAQs: Eugene plastic bag ban starts May 1
EUGENE, Ore. - The ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and retail stories takes effect May 1.
The City of Eugene said residents use an estimated 67 million single-use plastic carryout bags each year.
The goal of the law is to promote the use of reusable bags and keep plastic bags from becoming litter or garbage.
Retailers can still offer paper bags, but the bags must meet recycling requirements - and retailers must charge at least 5 cents per paper bag.
Frequently Asked Questions, as answered by the City of Eugene
When are retailers required to stop providing single-use plastic carryout bags?
The Bring Your Bag campaign begins May 1, 2013. At this time, retailers will be required to stop providing single-use plastic carryout bags to customers. However, retailers can begin the transition at any time before May 1.
What businesses does this apply to?
All retail businesses, including grocery stores, department and clothing stores, convenience stores and local markets located within the City of Eugene will be required to provide only recycled paper bags or reusable bags as carryout bags for customers.
What about farmers markets, street fairs, festivals and events?
The ordinance requires compliance from any store, shop, sales outlet, or vendor located within the City of Eugene that sells goods at retail. These types of establishments fall under that definition and are required to comply.
What plastic bags are prohibited?
All single-use plastic carryout bags provided at the point of sale that are less than 4 mils thick are prohibited. Bags constructed of durable plastic (4 mils or thicker) are considered reusable and are allowed. A 'mil' is an industry term that equals one thousandth of an inch.
What types of plastic bags are allowed?
The follow types of plastic bags are allowed:
- Bags used to package bulk items, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy, or small hardware items;
- Bags that contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, and fish;
- Bags that contain or wrap flowers, potted plants, or other items where dampness may be a problem;
- Bags that contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods;
- Pharmacy prescription bags;
- Bags that protect fragile items, such as glassware and breakables, which are then placed in a carryout bag.
Can retailers provide paper bags?
Yes. All paper bags provided at checkout must be made of 40% recycled content and be 100% recyclable, and must be capable of composting completely. In addition, retailers must charge a minimum of 5 cents for each paper bag provided at the point of sale. Paper bags provided at a time other than the point of sale do not require a 5-cent charge.
What does the 5 cent charge for paper bags go toward?
The 5-cent charge goes back to the retailer to recoup costs, unless otherwise specified by the store.
Are retailers required to provide reusable bags or recyclable paper bags at checkout?
No. Retailers may choose to provide either, both, or neither. If they provide paper bags, they must charge at least 5 cents for each bag. If they provide reusable plastic bags, they must be at least 4 mils thick to be considered "reusable."
Can retailers provide plastic bags made of compostable materials?
Not if they are less than 4 mils thick.
Are any businesses exempt from the ban?
Yes. Restaurants and other establishments where the primary business is the preparation of food or drink may provide customers with single-use plastic carryout bags for prepared take-out foods and liquids. Some businesses may request, and be approved for a one-year hardship exemption.
If restaurants are selling items other than prepared foods are the bags they use still exempt?
No. If the items being purchased are not prepared foods, then single-use plastic carryout bags less than 4 mils thick may not be used and they must charge a minimum of 5 cents for each paper bag used for carryout at the point of sale.
Are grocers' deli counters exempt like restaurants with to-go food?
Yes. Prepared on-site foods such as roasted chicken and soups can be placed in protective plastic bags at the deli counter as needed to prevent leaks or spills.
How will the City help shoppers prepare for this?
The Bring Your Bag campaign focuses on raising awareness about reusing bags, helping residents remember their reusable bags when shopping, and connecting residents with resources to get free or reduced price bags. This campaign begins mid-March and will last through May 2013.
Are any customers exempt from the 5-cent charge on paper bags?
Yes. Customers who use a voucher issued under the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program may request a paper bag or reusable bag at no cost at the point of sale. Retailers may choose which option to provide the customer.
Where can I get free or reduced price bags?
Certain stores and organization are giving away free reusable bags. To find a listing of these locations, please visit this website: www.eugene-or.gov/plasticbags.
What are the environmental impacts of this new ordinance?
Removing the majority of plastic bags from the retail landscape requires community members to utilize reusable bags more often. The switch from single-use bags to reusable bags has the impact of lessening the life cycle impacts of plastic bag production, a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions associated with production and transport of the bags, and less material in our local landfill, and less litter in our woods, streams, and natural areas.
What will the statewide ban do to Eugene's ban?
Currently there is no statewide ban on plastic bags. If a statewide ban goes into effect, the City will determine the best way to move forward.
How will this law be enforced?
The City of Eugene is taking an educational approach regarding this ordinance. If community members call and complain, City staff will talk to the retailer about the law and explain what is needed to comply. If it becomes clear a retailer is intentionally not complying they will be fined.
What if I notice a store is violating the ordinance?
Similar to other city rules, the plastic bag ban will be enforced on a complaint-driven basis. The City of Eugene is taking an educational approach regarding this ordinance. If community members call and complain, City staff will talk to the retailer about the law and explain what is needed to comply. If it becomes clear a retailer is intentionally not complying they will be fined. To report a violation, please fill out a nuisance complaint form.
What are the penalties for businesses if the law is not enforced?
The penalties for violating the new law will be consistent with other penalties outlined in the Eugene Code. The amount of the fine is based on a number of factors, including barriers to compliance, frequency of violation, and efforts to comply; it is determined on a case-by-case basis.
What are options for typical secondary plastic bag uses?
- Dealing with pet waste: There will still be many plastic bags in circulation. You can continue to use bread bags, produce, bulk, or cereal bags.
- Lining a garbage can: Line your garbage can with newspaper and rinse it out periodically. Or buy some lightweight plastic bags and reuse them, dumping the contents into your outdoor garbage can before relining the can with them.
How can shoppers keep their reusable shopping bags clean and safe?
A 2010 study showed that 97 percent of shoppers have never washed their reusable bags. There are a few simple steps shoppers can follow to keep reusable bags clean and to keep themselves and their families safe from germs.
Wash reusable grocery bags at least once per month:
- Cloth reusable bags should be washed in a washing machine using laundry detergent and dried in the dryer or air-dried.
- Plastic-lined reusable bags should be wiped using hot water and soap and air-dried.
- Check that both cloth and plastic-lined reusable bags are completely dry before storing them.
Always put raw meats into a disposable plastic bag before putting them in a reusable bag. When using reusable bags, keep meats, fresh produce, and ready-to-eat foods separated from other food products.
Additionally, consumers should clean any reusable bags used for carrying food before using for other purposes such as carrying books or gym clothes.
How can I remember to bring my reusable bags to the store?
Here are a few useful tips:
Always start your shopping list with "Bring Bags"
Keep a collapsible bag in your purse, backpack, or briefcase
Keep bags in your vehicle