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Friday, November 16, 2012

More paper bags to recycle in Portland

The Church of the Holy Green held services again yesterday in the Portland City Council chambers. At the high point of the ritual, plastic bags for customers were permanently banned at thousands more businesses in the city. This is going to save the planet, apparently.

At our house, we dispose of landfill garbage in plastic bags. Sorry, earth, the alternative makes too much of a mess. And so now we buy sturdy plastic bags by the box at the store. We also bring home more brown paper bags than ever before, of course, and we have no use for most of them. And so we send those off to be recycled. We're actually creating more solid waste, and sending no less plastic baggery to the landfill, than previously. (We always have, and still do, drop off smaller plastic bags to be recycled, and so that's been a wash.)

Are other households like ours? If so, Portland's wonderful new program is making waste matters worse, not better. Do you think the city would ever take an honest survey to ask that question?

Comments (32)

Do you think the city would ever take an honest survey to ask that question?


The media sure won't give an honest assessment. Last night KGW showed a puff piece with photo op of Adams (who has some sort of hair growth thing going on) posing with some "plastic bag monsters" at city hall -- and then man on the street interviews -- everyone interviewed universally supporting the ban. Not sure who is forcing these folks to use plastic bags without the ban.

On a side note -- the Pom uses lots of plastic bags. If they ever ban them in LO -- we'll have to buy them.

... And arguing about whether this inane policy works or not doesn't even get into the more central question: does Portland city government have any respect at all for personal freedom?

Food carts will purchase sturdier containers with lids-MORE solid waste than a thin plastic bag! Maybe Columbia Sportswear can design jackets with ziploc lining pockets we can all wear. Call it the "PDX to go" coat.

I've never heard a viable argument for banning plastic bags, other than "it's green." And I used to work for the City. Brown Paper Bags have a much higher environmental impact, from manufacturing them to transporting them. And, as Jack has noted, with every other week garbage service, one is certainly not putting out trash in a brown paper bag, especially during the eight or nine months of rain, when Waste Management can't seem to put lids back on garbage cans after pick-up and it's pretty near impossible to get one's garbage can dry.

And, as PDX Grace notes, the food carts will end up using heavier containers, or perhaps double packaging them. The irony is that there is a whole block of food carts across from the holy church of
sustainability (BPS) and a lot of BPS employees buy lunch at those carts, with their plastic clamshells holding greasy food.

Our household trash bag is a Fred Meyer plastic bag on the outside of a paper bag. I am always excited when we buy groceries in the Bend FM. I triple bag everything in plastic bags so I will have some to bring home to Portland. I guess I could buy some of the plastic bags like you all, but I wouldn't want to endanger by reputation for being a penny-pincher.

I can't talk about plastic bags for trash or they'll probably arrest me, but as far as paper bags to carry things home? We can phase that out - no problem. It's like breaking a habit. It can be done.

I made the switch to recyclable bags and they are much better. The straps are better and they carry more weight. Just try to bring one when you leave the house. They're only like 89 cents so if you forget just buy a new one. I probably have 20 of them here at the house. They're much better than the paper bags and if they get dirty I just toss them. Oh, and if I take bottles back I just give them to some homeless guy complete with complimentary bag.

It's a slow process to change habits but it can be done. Lately, I feel like something is missing if I leave the house without a recyclable bag, but it took about a year to get here. To program that into the act.

The paper bag thing is like newspapers versus online. It's just a matter of time 'til it's over.

What plastic material can I now use to line my compost bucket, i.e. my favorite household item?

Disconcerting. #unintended #consequences

As is the case with Bill, I have been converted over to the reusable bags. They are much better because they are sturdier and you can put more in them. I used to be more sporatic with using them, but I'm pretty close to 100% even though I have the option for plastic because we live in North Clackamas.

We also buy plastic bags for our garbage container, but do recycle as many plastic bags as possible by bringing them down to Fred Meyer. Also part of the rationale for the reusable bags is that it cuts down on the need to make as many recycling trips. (Confession: I drink too much bottled beer to give my reusable shopping bags away to the people hanging around the recycling center, and I use plastic bags to store the returnables.)

I guess my household is different: It's not a problem for me to use reusable canvas shopping bags. They are stronger, larger and easier to carry. When we were kids growing up in Pennsylvania we had Coke, beer and milk bottles that all went back for refill.

I'm against the city banning things like plastic bags, but since they are banned for the foreseeable future, where's the sense of you increasing your use of the (disposable) paper bags? Is it an occasional paper bag when you forget or is this a deliberately contrarian decision because you resent the law?

Besides the waste of paper bags that you identify as a concern, stores charge 5 cents apiece (or they will at least give you 5 cent discounts if you don't) so even the economics are soon a wash...

I'm not trying to provoke you Jack in fact it's noteworthy that you return plastic bags to the store for recycling - most people don't hassle with that. But since the law is what it is I am curious if you are philosophically opposed to reusing shopping bags or is it an issue of inconvenience?


The re-useable cloth (non-woven) bags sold by most grocery stores and made from oil and usually from China. They can't be washed so they accumulate contamination and germs.

Paper bags do have some advantages. They are usually made by northwest companies from trees grown sustainably on public and private forest land. That makes good, local jobs. And the bags can be re-used sometimes, recycled or even added to home compost.

I still prefer plastic bags for most uses. Like Jack, most are re-used and the rest recycled.

I stuff my garbage in grocery plastic bags, too, which does add up to more plastic that I'm throwing away. Instead of banning them, why not let us recycle them in our bins? Or make them biodegradable?

Thank goodness they aren't banning the clear plastic bags for meat, etc. I use those too as they're thicker and don't have holes like some grocery bags do. Good for the super slop.

I suspect that this will mean an increase in dog poop in my yard. I don't own a dog.

I was grossed out at the moustache until I realized it's 'Movember'. Perhaps the ONLY PR statement that Sam Adams has done that I agree with. Get it checked, guys!

A word of warning to all you re-useable bag users. My wife spent five full days in a local hospital after contracting the Norovirus from fruits or vegetables she bought and brought home from a local farmer's market in a re-useable bag. The actual bag she used was tested by the hospital and found to be the source of her infection.
If you're using these bags they should be washed and cleaned regularly, otherwise the same could happen to you.

Wow, thanks Dave, that's awful. That's why we use canvas, but I probably should wash them more.

Hope your wife is doing better.

We use plastic bags for garbage here. The small bags that Jack recycles get used for cat waste. I have a bunch of the reusable bags, too, and sometimes use them, but the news reports of all those germs in them is pretty freaky. And they don't seem to be made of the kind of material that will wash well, if at all. Fortunately, I mostly shop in Clackamas County, so the ban isn't much of an immediate issue for me, but I do have a good stash of plastic bags for when the statewide ban comes down.

As I've mentioned countless times before, I've got five kids. My wife works nights and weekends, I work days. So 90% of my shopping trips involve me taking 5 kids to the store with me.

Those of you who use reusable bags might have an easy time of it, but I've got enough crap to carry as is. I have to make sure I have two sizes of diaper in the diaper bag, make sure there are wipes, bring extra clothes (if you've ever dealt with a diarrhea blow-out you know why), make sure the kids all have shoes on, get their coats, etc.

Having to deal with making sure the reusable bags are clean and in the van is just one more stupid thing to worry about. It might be simple for a single person or someone with no kids, but for me it isn't worth the hassle.

These same issues are the reason paper bags don't work for me. Plus they're tons harder to bring into the house and they rip and fall apart too easily.

I will continue to drive the extra mile to Clackamas to shop so I can get my plastic bags. Portland be damned.

Dave A: Best wishes to your wife. And thanks for the warning. I'm tempted just to dump the reusable bags. With the very high-deductible (i.e. crap) health insurance I have, I really can't take the chance that a grocery bag will put me in the hospital for any amount of time.

I would like to add here that I did an experiment this summer using only paper for garbage, including the cat waste, but the stench with the every-other-week pickup was intolerable. I'd consider paper again if the pick-up was once a week (at no extra charge), but not otherwise.

What's really irksome is Sam and other council members doing the touchdown dance like they've accomplished some environmental miracle, when there is no real demonstrable benefit to what they've done. It's a feel-good measure that softens the nightmares of people who can't get the image of a gigantic swirling mass of plastic out in the Pacific Ocean out of their heads. Which is scary, but doesn't really exist. And plastic pollution and disposal is a real problem, but not significantly impacted by this action.

Meanwhile, when it comes to a project that absolutely promises environmental destruction with no demonstrated need or benefit on the part of the public-the Hayden Island boondoggle-Sam's grimly determined to push it through.

As an aside, I knew a fair number of alcoholics growing up. If you showed me a random selection of photos of people that included a recent shot of Sam, I'd feel pretty confident in picking him out as one. Something's not right with him, beyond his policies.

Every day I am reconfirmed about moving to Clackamas County. No bag restrictions what so ever and I can even purchase spray paint that isn’t locked up. The gasoline out here is cheaper too. No slop buckets either.

To Alice and Bingo: Thanks for your kind comments. I'm pleased to say the Norovirus incident happened back in May; and my wife is mostly back to normal except for a slightly below normal kidney function. And her M.D. says that should be okay by year's end. The contaminated bag was one of the non-woven ones they sell at Trader Joe's. Not a knock on them, you just have to be careful - and above all WASH EVERY PIECE OF FRUIT OR VEGETABLE YOU BRING INTO THE HOUSE.

We use and reuse those pesky plastic bags many times before then using them as wastebasket liners- they are quite handy. The brown paper bags can only be reused a couple of times before they go to the store for bottle/can recycling and I'd use the plastic bags for that if I didn't have to get rid of the paper bags somehow.
Where we live plastic bags are alive and well.
I've also taken to reusing those plastic containers that grated cheese, yogurt etc come in for leftovers rather than saran wrap or zip lock bags.
What I would like to see the end of is the impossible to open with out cutting yourself hard plastic covering some purchase such as batteries.

If you have cats or small dogs, don't recycle brown paper grocery bags before putting them on the floor and letting your pets have at them. They're a great cheap toy. Young and old cats enjoy them here.

I use the sturdy, reusable plastic bags when I remember to bring them. Heck, I even reuse paper bags if I remember them. But the reusable plastic ones are dangerous if you don't wash them -- they breed bacteria. Once I'm washing them, I stop believing that they're better for the environment.

Yes, you CAN wash the cheap reusable bags you buy for a buck at the store. Just toss them in the washing machine and hang them up to dry.

Taco Dave--I've got 4 kids, so I can relate. Assign the task of "remembering the bags" to the 5-year old. They will take the responsibility very seriously.

All that said, I'm okay with the reusable bags, but I'm not okay with the City mandating my lack of choices.

We purchased a case of "t-shirt bags" from Costco before the ban, so I have plenty of liners to use in our kitchen trash can for now. Of course they used to be re-used bags, and now they are brand new and get used a single time, so it is worse for the environment. (But it is better for us, as there are fewer leaks from small holes in the fragile bags.)

Yeah, I have way too many paper bags now, it is probably time to recycle a bag full of bags. (And we use re-useable bags at most grocery stores, but sometimes we forget or weren't planning on going shopping and end up with more paper bags.)

"We have guess he forgot his bag..."

With Portland water and sewer rates so excessively high, no way am I going to use those woven cloth bags that must be continually washed. At least in the short term, friends to the North are providing me with a constant supply of the multi-use plastic checkout bags free that I have various re-uses for including as garbage bags. Calling the bags single-use is just a political ploy. The only half way legitimate issue that keeps coming up is that of litter. So what will the green socialist zealots ban next; single-use cups from Starbucks so you have to bring your own - or maybe just the plastic lids? Both can also be found as litter.

The banned plastic bags are made primarily from the waste products of natural gas production. This would otherwise be burned off (i.e. go to waste, and enter the atmosphere).

The "reusable" bags are made from petroleum products (oil), and produced in places that our "localvore" culture purists would turn their noses up at.

And yes the reusable bags get very dirty, and carry disease, and aren't washable in any practical sense.

Make sure to wash off the lotus before you eat it, oh conscientious Portlanders...

This ban solves nothing when all people have to do is shop at all stores outside Portland city limits that have plastic bags.this is not saving the planet either.good riddance Dec 31 when Sam Adams rear end will finally be out of office.

Yes, one can use reuseable bags, BUT have you seen the news story about how many of them are full of eColi and other goody germs? And you, oh recycling neighbor using that reuseable bag, you plop it down, replete with germs, on the conveyor belt and we all get to share in the germs. The person who throws them away when they look visibly dirty? well, they're full of germs on the inside. Am increasingly hating living in this city!


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