Making the switch

Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, will phase out the use of plastic bags in its stores by 2025.

SALEM — When you get takeout food from your favorite restaurant, you might be handed a thin plastic bag, with foam containers inside containing your meal, plus a plastic straw or two if you ordered a drink.

Those straws? Gone.

The bag? History.

The foam containers? Not going anywhere.

State lawmakers delivered a split verdict on bills cracking down on plastic wares that comes from retailers and vendors.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved House Bill 2509, which bans plastic checkout bags at stores and restaurants statewide starting next year.

Senators last week approved Senate Bill 90, prohibiting stores and restaurants from giving out plastic straws to customers. Customers can still ask for one under the legislation, which takes effect next year.

A third bill, House Bill 2883, that would have prevented vendors from providing food to customers in polystyrene containers failed, 15-14. Three Democratic senators — including state Sen. Betsy Johnson, of Scappoose — joined all 11 Republicans in opposition. It needed 16 votes to pass.

Most Republicans opposed all three bills. Some argued that paper alternatives to plastic straws and bags are inferior.

Notably, the bag bill requires grocers to sell checkout bags for a nickel each.

“The goal is to get people to … bring their own bags,” said state Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, who carried all three bills on the Senate floor.

Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, said banning single-use plastic bags is a good idea, but the fee will have “unintended consequences.”

“We continue … to think we cannot educate our people and we must punish them by fining them, punish them by raising costs, instead of actually talking to our citizens rationally,” Boquist said, arguing that adding a mandatory fee on paper bags would reduce their usage and hurt paper mills and recycling centers.

Since they were introduced into widespread use in the 1970s, plastic bags have risen in popularity at the expense of paper. One study suggested that Americans used more than 100 billion single-use plastic shopping bags in 2014.

“Single-use plastics, in general, are polluting our state and our planet,” said Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton.

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