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Frequently-asked Questions about Portland's Plastic Bag Ban

woman entering home with reusable shopping bagPlastic grocery and shopping bags may offer short-term convenience, but they have long-term costs. Not only do single-use bags require resources such as petroleum and natural gas to manufacture, their disposal presents a number of problems as well.

Why is the City of Portland expanding the ban on plastic bags?

Plastic bags are extremely lightweight and can act like balloons blowing out of garbage trucks and landfills. These flyaway bags litter our parks and trees, enter storm drains and can eventually end up in rivers and oceans where they break into small, toxic pieces.  Plastics have found their way into all five of the world’s major ocean current systems and are one of the most common types of litter found in Portland’s rivers and on Oregon’s beaches. Sea animals often mistake plastic particles for food, causing harm to the animals and potentially affecting the seafood we eat.

Paper bags will still be available at the checkout. But paper bags still require natural resources to make. An even better option is to invest those natural resources in into something that can be used over and over again—like a reusable bag!

Why aren’t plastic bags recyclable in Portland’s blue roll carts?

Plastic bags create major problems at recycling facilities. They jam and shut down machinery, accounting for almost a third of labor costs. Plastic bags that get mixed with other recyclables also contaminate the end materials, lowering their quality and value. The impacts of plastic bags in our curbside recycling system means higher collection rates for Portlanders.

Where can I recycle plastic bags?

The Oregon DEQ estimates that Oregonians used approximately 100,000 tons of plastic film in 2009, and only a very small percentage of single-use plastic bags are actually recycled. Reusable bags are a simple way to reduce your need for single-use plastics–and they are easy to use.

But even if we use reusable bags for our groceries and errands, produce, newspaper, and other plastic bags are still a part of our everyday lives. When you do have plastic bags, we recommend contacting Metro to find a drop off location near you. Portlanders are great recyclers, but we need to take the next step by switching to reusable bags as part of our daily routines.

Don’t have a reusable bag?

Most local grocers have a wide variety of reusable bags for sale. Some ideas for getting along without plastic bags:

  • 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 your can with them. Reuse the bag from your cat or dog food.