Oregon gets greener as new sustainability law takes effect

Matt Brown, News Editor

Oregon, a national leader in progressive legislation, is fighting climate change by encouraging consumers to consume less plastic. New laws applying to grocery stores and food vendors are changing the way Oregonians eat, drink and shop.

The Sustainable Shopping Initiative, passed in the 2019 legislative session, took effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The bill bans the distribution of single-use plastic bags in all retail and grocery stores. The bill also repeals ORS 459A.695, a law requiring retail and grocery stores to provide plastic bags for customers.

The bill’s text articulates the justification for this change.

“By encouraging the switch to reusable or recycled paper bags, Oregon can reduce the amounts of single use  bags that are used and thrown out. This is also a positive first step towards addressing the large amount of plastic debris in oceans, which threatens Oregon marine wildlife.”

In their absence, grocery stores can offer paper bags at the cost of 5 cents per bag. Although a minor inconvenience for some, the initiative is meant to encourage shoppers to transition to the use of reusable bags and create a more environmentally conscious community of shoppers in Oregon.

In addition to single use plastic bags, plastic straws and utensils are also under scrutiny in the initiative. The SSI also requires that consumers must ask for plastic utensils or straws rather than just being given them. While many drink-serving franchises such as Starbucks have made changes to their serving styles to eliminate the necessity of plastic straws, others have yet to follow that lead.

“I feel like it’s more respectful to ask for straws these days because its more mindful and environmentally conscious,” senior Lupita Ruiz. “Although it can be kind of annoying to ask for straws for cups that require straws to drink my drink, it’s definitely important.”

In order to enforce the new law, government inspections of retail and grocery stores are being implemented. Stores that do not comply with the law will be fined $250 per violation.