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Eugene Plastic Bag Ban Status Presented

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EUGENE, Ore. — Eugene’s plastic bag ban once again took center stage at a city council meeting Wednesday.

Councilors asked for an update on how well the program is working since taking effect in May.

Zero Waste Anaylst Stephanie Scafa gave a detailed report on how the plastic bag ban is doing. In that report, the city surveyed retailers and customers to get an idea of the community’s response to the new ordinance.

“From the staff perspective we realize that change is difficult. We’ve learned a lot in these six months since the ordinance took effect, and overall we believe it’s working,” Scafa said.

Scafa reported that proof in a detailed report, which looked at the plastic bag ban’s progress in three different ways: consumer surveys, retailer conversations and solid waste customer satisfaction surveys.

Eighty-five percent of consumers surveyed said they were aware of the ban before it went into effect and over 50 percent agreed with it. When asked if the five-cent paper bag fee encourages people to take reusable bags to stores, the report said over 60 percent said yes. But not all council members felt those numbers reflected the community’s opinion.

“It is always the case that I hear the complaint that this is a horrible idea, we should’ve never have done the five-cent charge. Banning the plastic bags was fine and a decent idea, but the five-cent charge for paper bags is nonsense,” said Mike Clark, Eugene City Councilor.

There were concerns the report didn’t look at all areas of the city.

“I’m really disgusted that the northeast part of town is not covered. There’s not one store in Mike’s ward of my ward where customers were surveyed,” said George Poling, Eugene City Councilor.

But Scafa says they did ask grocery stores in those areas, and they weren’t interested in the survey. And even though there were different opinions, when it came down to it, there was no decision for change.

“In reading the results of this, I just don’t see any reason to change it. There’s nothing in here that jumps out at me like, ‘Oh gosh there’s this overriding concern,'” said George Brown, Eugene City Councilor.

The report also found 43 percent of retailers surveyed are spending less than they did before the ban. And retailers are split 50-50 on whether they feel the ban encourages customers to bring their own bags to the store.

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