Plastic Bags

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The Bend City Council adopted an ordinance in December of 2018 to encourage the use of reusable bags and limit the use of carryout plastic bags.

The plastic bags program starts July 1, 2019 and enforcement will begin January 1, 2020.


These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are intended to explain the purpose of the ordinance and how it will affect your shopping experience. 


Q:      Why did the Council decide to regulate the types of bags used at grocery stores and other retail establishments?

A:      Carryout plastic bags are found not just in stores, homes and landfills, but also littering the sides of roads, forests, streams, rivers, beaches and oceans. They can injure or kill wildlife. Carryout plastic bags can interfere with recycling systems and reduce recycling efficiency.  Many communities in Oregon, the United States and other countries have banned carryout plastic bags and created incentives to use reusable or degradable bags, creating greater awareness of sustainability and waste.


Q:      When does the ordinance go into effect?

A:       The ordinance becomes effective July 1, 2019. Some stores may make changes more quickly, and some stores might not come into full compliance until the end of 2019, when enforcement can begin. 


Q:      How will the City enforce?

A:      The City will start with an educational campaign. The City will work with store owners and managers to educate them on how to comply with the law, and will not start any formal enforcement action until January 2020.  After January 1, 2020, violations can be reported to code enforcement by filing a complaint on our online Citizen Portal, which will be located at City staff will notify the retailer about what is required to comply.  Complaints received about retailers not complying after Jan. 1, 2020, will be subject to potential civil penalties of up to $100 for the first violation, up to $200 for the second violation, and up to $400 for subsequent violations. Code enforcement processes complaints based on their severity, therefore this type of violation may not be addressed immediately.


Q:       What does the plastic bag ordinance mean for shoppers?

A:       The main effect will be that stores will no longer provide thin (less than 2.25 mils thick) plastic bags for you to carry purchases home.  Shoppers will have the option of using recyclable or reusable bags or some other way (backpack, tote-bag) of taking purchases home. Most stores will provide either a recyclable paper bag or a reusable plastic bag at a cost of at least 10 cents per bag.  Reusable plastic bags, which are already common in many types of stores, will be thicker than the plastic bags that have been used at most grocery checkouts. 


Q:      What businesses does this apply to?

A:       The restrictions apply to all retail establishments located in the city of Bend, meaning all types of retail stores, sales outlets and shops - not just groceries. 


Q:      What about farmers’ markets, street fairs, festivals and events?

A:       It does not apply to fairs, farmers’ markets, sports events and similar temporary events.  


Q.       Is it a total ban on all thin carryout plastic bags?

A:       No. Plastic bags may still be used within stores for bulk items including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, frozen food, flowers, plants, unwrapped foods and pharmacy prescriptions. Laundries and dry cleaners may still use plastic bags.  The newspaper can still be delivered in a plastic bag. Also, restaurants and other food providers that sell prepared food and drink may use carryout plastic bags for take-out orders. 


Q:      Can I still buy plastic bags?

A:       Yes.  Shoppers can still buy and use plastic bags to use at home for food storage, garbage or other uses. The prohibition applies only to carryout plastic bags used to take your purchases home from the store.


Q:       How much will it cost me if I forget my bags?

A:       If you need a bag to carry your purchases home, you will have to pay at least 10 cents a bag for a recyclable paper or reusable plastic bag.  To be “reusable” the bag must be at least 2.25 mils thick. Each paper bag will typically cost 10 cents. Some reusable bags may be more expensive. 


Q:      Are any customers exempt from the charge?

A:       A recyclable paper or a reusable plastic bag must be provided at no cost to customers with WIC vouchers or SNAP benefits upon request at the point of sale.


Q:       What does the 10 cents charge for the papers bag go toward?

A: The charge goes back to the retailer to recoup costs of providing the bags, and to encourage the use of reusable bags. It does not go to the City.


 Q:       Do I have to use a recyclable paper or reusable plastic bag to carry purchases out from a store?

A:       No.  You are not required to use a bag if you can carry your purchases without a bag.  You can use backpacks, tote-bags, or any other containers that are not thin carryout plastic bags.


Q:       I still have some thin plastic grocery bags.  Can I reuse them as carryout bags?

A:       Yes. The ordinance prohibits stores from giving you carryout plastic bags to take your purchases home, it does not prohibit you from reusing bags that you acquired before the restrictions came into effect. 


Q:      Is there anything I need to know about reusable bags?

A:       For your health and safety, you should wipe reusable plastic bags with hot water and soap and let them dry before storing them for reuse.  Cloth reusable bags should be washed in a washing machine.  Do not put raw meats and other wet items directly in a reusable bag -- use the in-store disposable bags to protect your reusable bag.  You can also use the reusable bags for other purposes such as carrying books or gym clothes.


Q:      I have used plastic grocery checkout bags for things like lining garbage cans and disposing of dog waste.  What are some ideas for getting along without plastic checkout bags?

A:       For dog waste, there will still be a lot of other plastic bags available – you will still find produce and other bulk food bags in grocery stores. Bread bags can be used, as well as the bags used for delivered newspapers. Garbage cans can also be lined with other plastic bags that are in circulation, or you can buy garbage can liners.


Q:      Will I be in trouble if a store gives me a thin carryout plastic carryout bag and I use it to take my purchase home?

A:       No.  Only stores are subject to enforcement of the ordinance.


Q:      What effect will a statewide ban have?

A:       At this time, there is no statewide ban.  If the State of Oregon does regulate plastic bag use, the City will consider whether amendment or repeal of the City’s regulation would be appropriate.  If both state and city regulations are in effect, both sets of regulations would have to be complied with.


Q:      How can I remember to bring my reusable bags to the store?

A:       Here are a few useful tips:

  • Always start your shopping list with “Bring Bags”
  • Keep a collapsible bag in your purse, backpack or briefcase
  • Keep bags in your vehicle

Other resources: 

Here is the Council's ordinance.

Here is the Council issue summary.

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