EUGENE, OR— On Tuesday night, Eugene became the third Oregon city to implement a single-use plastic bag ban when the city council voted to ban plastic checkout bags and put a fee on paper bags. The decision will have big payoffs for Oregon’s environment and the Pacific Ocean.
“Eugene City Councilors should be applauded for standing up for our oceans and voting to curb the flow of plastic bag pollution,” said Environment Oregon’s State Director, Sarah Higginbotham. “Now, we need other cities to take action and make a lasting difference with bag bans of their own.”
Thousands of Eugenians voiced their support for a bag ban, alongside dozens of small and large businesses. As the second largest city in the state, Eugene’s bag ban will make a significant impact when it takes effect in six months, greatly reducing the estimated 67 million plastic bags residents use annually. Eugene joins Portland and Corvallis in banning plastic checkout bags.
Altogether, Oregonians use approximately 1.7 billion plastic bags each year, and too many of them end up as litter in our ocean. Today, there are 100 million tons of trash in the North Pacific Gyre; in some parts of the Pacific, plastic outweighs plankton 6 to 1.
All of this trash in the Pacific is creating an ecological disaster:
- Turtles and seabirds frequently ingest floating plastic, mistaking it for food. They also get entangled in bags and often drown or die of suffocation.
- Adult seabirds inadvertently feed small bits of plastic to their chicks — often causing them to starve to death after their stomachs become filled with plastic.
- Toxic pollutants leach from the plastic into the water. Scientists are now studying whether fish and other marine animals absorb these toxic pollutants. If so, there is a good chance that we also absorb them when we eat fish.
“The scary truth is that scientists tell us this plastic may never biodegrade,” said Higginbotham. “And it gets worse every day Oregonians wait to tackle this problem.”