Ashland is readying for a plastic bag ban that goes into effect Nov. 6
The common sight of customers walking out of Safeway with plastic bags will soon come to an end in Ashland as the city implements a ban on the bags.
Citing the negative environmental effects of plastic bags, the Ashland City Council voted in April to ban them, but gave stores several months to adapt to the change.
The plastic bag ban will officially go into effect on Nov. 6, said city of Ashland Management Analyst Adam Hanks.
Customers who forget to bring reusable market bags will have to pay 10 cents for every paper bag they request at stores. Councilors who favor the fee said they didn't want people to simply switch to paper bags, which require trees and energy to manufacture.
Safeway currently offers plastic and paper bags and sells reusable bags.
Other grocery stores in town, including the Ashland Food Co-op and PC Market of Choice, had already phased out plastic bags before the council passed the plastic bag ban.
The city is sending out a mailing to businesses potentially affected by the ban. The city will provide information — including answers to frequently asked questions — so stores can explain the new rules to customers, Hanks said.
The city will host a public meeting as well if there's enough interest, he said.
At Safeway this week, Ashland customer George Cross was carrying out items in plastic bags, but said he wasn't that concerned about the impending ban. He said he has reusable bags that he could use or he would be willing to pay a dime per paper bag.
"It's only 10 cents. I guess it's good that they're banning plastic bags," Cross said.
Talent resident Deanna Stollings was packing out groceries in a reusable bag. She said she began using reusable bags about five years ago and is fine with a plastic bag ban and paper bag fee in Ashland.
"I think that's fair. It will remind people to bring their bags," Stollings said.
Tourist Cameron DelGrosso, who was lugging plastic bags out of Safeway, had a favorable view of Ashland's ban.
"I think that's probably quite responsible and will make people more conscious of what they're doing," said DelCrosso, who hails from Baltimore, Md.
Safeway is very supportive of Ashland's plastic bag ban, Safeway Northwest Division Public & Government Affairs Director Sara Osborne said in an email.
"Our company and our stores are concerned about protecting our environment and support reducing the number of single-use plastic and paper bags in the waste stream. One of the most effective ways to reduce the number of bags in the waste stream is to encourage customers to use reusable bags," she said. "In our experience, ordinances that ban plastic bags and place a fee on paper bags have proven to be effective in changing customer behavior by creating an incentive to use reusable bags."
Osborne said Safeway will install signs about one month before the ordinance goes into effect reminding customers of the 10 cent paper bag charge so they aren't surprised and can begin working on the habit of bringing reusable bags.
PC Market of Choice Cashier Lauree Sanders said most customers are glad the store stopped using plastic bags well before the council vote.
"People are used to it with us. A few more people are starting to ask if we're charging for paper bags," she said.
The store has a large sticker on its front sliding glass door with a photo of a reusable bag. It reads, "Got your bag?"
In a display area where reusable bags sell for 99 cents, a sign informs customers they can save more than 400 plastic bags by using a reusable one twice a week for two years.
The Ashland Food Co-op stopped using plastic bags years ago and has a 10 cent fee on paper bags. The fee helps subsidize the cost of reusable bags sold at the store so they are less expensive, said General Manager Emile Amarotico.
He said the store applauds Ashland's plastic bag ban.
"I think it's time. We've proven it can be done," Amarotico said.
Businesses will have to provide free reusable or paper bags at the request of customers enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program.
At the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, Manager Pam Marsh said the food bank won't charge for paper bags because it doesn't charge for food. It is seeking donations of reusable bags to give out to customers who visit the food bank.
Customers can use the reusable bags at the food bank and take them to other locations around town so they won't be charged paper bag fees, said Marsh, who is also a council member.
Currently, the food bank uses donated paper bags for groceries, she said.
"I'm anticipating we'll feel the impact of the ban. When plastic bags go away and there is a charge for paper, people will reuse their paper bags more often because they'll be more valuable," Marsh said. "I anticipate we'll get fewer paper bags donated."
Paper and reusable bags can be dropped off at the food bank, 560 Clover Lane, during operating hours from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and the first Saturday of each month, and from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
Some plastic bags will still be allowed under the ordinance, including those used to package bulk items, produce, meat, frozen foods, potted plants and other damp items, hot prepared food and liquids, unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods, prescriptions and dry cleaned clothing.
Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.