EUGENE, Ore. — In just more than three weeks, plastic bags will disappear from check stands in stores throughout the city. Across the freeway there’s no such ban.
From the outside, Bi-Mart stores look the same; the bright red sign, the beige paint and the green roof. For decades the chain’s 73 locations touted the same departments, products and blue smocks worn by the employees who always greet you with a smile and the same question: paper or plastic?
In a few weeks this question won’t ever be uttered again in Bi-Mart’s four Eugene stores.
“Sometime between now and May 1, we’ll run out of plastic bags in our Eugene stores and just have all paper bags for our members,” said Don Leber, Bi-Mart Marketing Director.
The date, May 1, didn’t exactly creep up.
“Everybody’s pretty well talked about it. For a lot of years it’s been talked about,” Leber said.
The change sounds simple enough. Chains like Bi-Mart and Fred Meyer just won’t offer plastic bags anymore. There is a cost incurred, though. Every paper bag costs three to six times more than its plastic counterpart.
Eugene’s ban offsets that cost with a 5 cent per bag fee, another incentive to get reusable bags.
“We have quite a few already,” said one Fred Meyer customer.
Other shoppers don’t exactly oppose the ban, but they do have a complaint.
“The biggest comment we get, it’s been funny, is people use the bags for other things. They don’t so much care that they get a plastic bag here as they use the plastic bag for other stuff,” Leber said.
Lucky for them, Eugene is only part of the Eugene-Springfield market. Several chains including Bi-Mart, Fred Meyer and Jerry’s have stores in both cities. Come May 1, there won’t be changes to Springfield stores.
“They’ll still have plastic bags, just like we do in most of our markets,” Leber said.
So just as the sign, paint, roof, departments, products and smocks will stay the same, Springfield Bi-Mart members will keep hearing that question at the register: paper or plastic?
Lane County and other groups are partnering for a reusable bag swap this weekend. It’s Saturday, Earth Day, from 11-5 p.m. at EWEB’s River Edge Plaza.