By Brian Cameron
Midway through last year the idea first came to Jan Behrs of Manzanita to see how the small coastal community would feel about instituting a plastic bag ban for the city. As it turns out the residents responded positively and the drive for change began.
When Jan first moved to Manzanita nearly two years ago from the Portland area she was taken back by just how many pieces of plastic litter she commonly found along the beach. Having been used to the City of Portland enacting a ban on plastic bags she was surprised to see the forward thinking community not embracing the same ideas.
“I was shocked at how much,” said Behrs. “I then started investigating and I learned that most modern plastics are basically stuck in our environment forever.”
She first started approaching local grocers to see what they might think about switching to reusable or paper bags and for the most part the reception went pretty well. According to Behrs, the citizens of Manzanita, per her experience, are pretty aware of the ecological dangers of plastic.
“Manzanita Fresh Foods was very receptive to it, and even though they had to pay more for paper bags it seemed the transition went very smoothly,” said Behrs.
“We thought about this a long time before we did it,” said Fresh Foods co-owner Jon Welsh. “It started when CARTM stopped accepting plastic bags for recycling. We also kept track of the discounts we were giving people who brought their own bags, and once we hit a certain point — the rate had actually skyrocketed — we made the switch.”
The second item on her agenda was to do a little more in regards to informing the community of the dangers of plastic litter so she organized a showing of the award winning private film “Bag It” at NCRD, an independent documentary film that follows activist Jeb Berrier as he endeavors to find out what happens to the massive amount of plastic waste we throw away every day.
Now Behrs begins the third phase of her drive against the pollutant polymers. She intends to get signatures from interested citizens and visitors of Manzanita in order to eventually approach the Manzanita City Council with a potential new ordinance.
“Right now we are looking at getting proper wording for the ordinance right,” said Behrs. “But before that we need to first collect enough signatures and work with local businesses to see how the transition will go.”
Currently Behrs has collected a total of 125 signatures and 41 of those are that of actual Manzanita residents, she hopes to have a total of 100 residential signatures before they move forward with the ordinance. If things go the way she plans then they could approach the City Council as early as next month but its likely there are steps to consider in the process first that might take more time than originally thought.