By the time Mayor-elect Sam Adams gets his proposed resolution regulating plastic grocery bags before City Council, a growing part of the market may have already passed him by.
Eugene-based Market of Choice, which has stores in Southwest Portland and West Linn, recently announced the phasing out of plastic bags in all its locations by October.
"This is definitely an upcoming trend," says Michael Scott, Market of Choice's recycling coordinator.
It certainly is, at least among Portland's gourmet and specialty markets. Earlier this year, Whole Foods, a national grocery chain with five stores in the Portland area, did away with plastic bags in its stores nationwide. Food Front, a local grocery co-op with two locations in Portland, doesn't offer plastic at the checkout. Nor does local grocer New Seasons.
Other stores, while not banning plastic bags entirely, have discouraged their use. Trader Joe's doesn't offer plastic unless customers ask for it. At Zupan's it's a similar story. Last year, the grocery chain gave away 10,000 reusable cloth bags to customers and will decide by the end of the year whether to remove plastic bags from stores.
"The majority of our customers choose paper," says owner Mike Zupan. "There has absolutely been a decrease in the use of plastic bags."
So long as market biggies like Fred Meyer and Safeway counter the trend by still offering plastic and paper, Adams is going forward with considering a proposal to ban plastic bags, or implement a 20-cent fee for plastic and paper grocery bags.
Adams wants to help people adjust to a more sustainable lifestyle. But this lifestyle change seems one many Portlanders have already made since stores report more customers toting reusable bags. New Seasons CEO Brian Rohter says the percentage of customers who re-used their bag or brought in a cloth bag has nearly doubled since 2005 to 27 percent this year.
At a forum in City Hall on Monday, Sept. 22, on "Solving the Plastic Bag Dilemma," Adams said he hopes to have a proposal ready by the end of this year (see WWire for more on the forum).
Asked if the marketplace isn't at least starting to make his proposal moot, Adams says city government can still help push people to recycle. "You want to look at the various options that will do the most to reduce the negative effects of single-use bags," Adams says.
U.S. cities that have voted to tax or ban plastic bags include San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. Plastic bags are illegal in China, Rwanda, Eritrea and South Africa.