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Bend Moves Backwards on Environmental Sustainability

After passing a strong plastic bag ordinance earlier this year, Bend City Council is now trying to repeal the ordinance instead of updating it to meet the requirements of the statewide bill. Plastic bags are one of the top items found on beach and highway cleanups in Oregon, and fewer than 8% of them get recycled. Plastic has been documented in nearly 700 species of marine life, including gray whales found washed up in the Pacific Northwest. So why does the Bend City Council want to repeal their plastic bag ban? The Council "found no compelling reason" to maintain their ordinance, but we found some for them.

  • If repealed, Bend – a city with a population of more than 94,000 – will continue to use unnecessary plastic bags pollution for an additional 6 months while waiting for the statewide bill to take effect on January 1, 2020.
  • Businesses and consumers will be even more confused about plastic bag regulations (especially considering Bend's ordinance already took effect on July 1st).
  • Moving to a lower fee on paper bags will ultimately decrease the incentive to bring your own reusable bag, leading to more paper bags being used and decreasing the positive environmental impact of the ordinance.
  • The plastic bag ordinance was brought forth by concerned middle school students who put a lot of time and effort into getting the ordinance passed. While their efforts to engage in local government were a great learning opportunity, taking their "win" to a "loss" runs the risk of discouraging these kids from future civic engagement.
  • The Council's assertion that the state will take the lead on outreach for the Bill is not consistent with what lawmakers in Salem have discussed. Much of the outreach for the statewide plastic bag legislation will fall to cities and supporting NGOs like Surfrider.

Ultimately, Bend's ordinance does not need many updates to comply with the statewide bill. The biggest update would be to expand the ordinance to all retail establishments, including restaurants (which would simply require a copy and paste of the statewide bill). Bend can even keep the 10¢ fee on paper bags (the statewide bill establishes a minimum fee, but local jurisdictions may charge a higher fee).

Bend Residents: Please call on your City Council to choose protecting the environment over taking the perceived easy way out by keeping Bend's plastic bag ordinance in place. Here are the most effective ways to help.

  • Call the City Manager, Eric King, at (541) 388-5505
  • Share your thoughts via email to 
  • Write a letter to the editor to and The Source Weekly (via webform)
  • Attend the next City Council meeting where they'll make the final decision on the ordinance - Wed, August 7th at 5 pm - and sign up to give public testimony