Fees for grocery bags on Sam Adams' shopping list

Fees for grocery bags on Sam Adams' shopping list
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - City Commissioner Sam Adams is pushing a plan to impose a fee on grocery bags. Paper or plastic.
     
Adams, who hopes to have the fee in place before he takes over as mayor next year, said he has yet to decide how much to charge. But he's discussing that the City Council vote for a fee ranging anywhere from a nickel to 20 cents per bag.
     
"It's a simple behavioral change that we have to ingrain in ourselves," Adams said.
     
Only 52 percent of paper bags and 5 percent of plastic grocery bags given out in the United States are recycled, said Stephanie Barger, executive director of the Earth Resources Foundation in Costa Mesa, Calif.
     
And if even people do a better job of recycling, both types present environmental problems. Plastic bags are made from oil and don't biodegrade. Paper bags easily decompose, but it takes trees to make them.
     
Part of the money raised from the fee would help provide free cloth bags to poor people. Some would go toward city recycling programs and some would go to stores for administration and programs to educate consumers about the fee.
     
Adams acknowledged that the switch would represent a lifestyle change for shoppers, who would have to remember to bring their own bags or pressure the cashier to jam the groceries into the fewest bags possible - risking smushed bread.
     
Portland, however, is not alone on this issue. In fact, it's behind other West Coast cities.
     
In March 2007, San Francisco became the first city to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.
     
Los Angeles, meanwhile, voted Tuesday to ban plastic shopping bags from stores beginning in July 2010. Shoppers can either bring their own bags or pay 25 cents for a paper or biodegradable bag.
     
And on Monday, the Seattle City Council will vote on a proposal to implement a 20-cent fee at grocery stores on plastic bags.
     
Though Portland has a reputation for being "green," the Adams' proposal is not yet in the bag.
     
Bag manufacturers want to make sure their interests are protected. Paul Cosgrove of the American Forest and Paper Association, a national trade association for forest product companies, said he's concerned about local job losses tied to a possible declining demand for paper bags.
     
"Our position is that paper bags are highly recyclable and made with recycled content as well," he said. "There are paper bag plants as well as recycling facilities in Oregon. We would like to have them not adversely affected by what the city is thinking."
     
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)