Those reusable shopping bags are about to get a lot more mileage in north county.
By Brian Cameron
As of Sept. 5, Manzanita City Council decided to unanimously pass a new ordinance that prohibits the use of single-use plastic carryout bags.
After a yearlong effort, the City Council decided to adopt the ordinance, which had been spearheaded by Jan Behrs. Behrs had moved to the Manzanita area several years ago and was at the time taken aback by the disregard the community seemed to show for an environmental threat she felt very strongly about.
“I was shocked at how much,” said Behrs. “I then started investigating and I learned most modern plastics are basically stuck in our environment forever.”
Behrs, who had come from the Portland area, wanted to bring that city’s similar bag-ban to her new community. She had seen how the ban went in relation to a considerably larger metropolitan environment and knew the same tactics could be used on a much smaller scale, so she with the help of a few friends she’d made from CARTM and other areas of the community decided to begin a public information campaign.
Soon changing from just informing the public to actual collection of signatures, the initial process of creating the ordinance had begun and Behrs, along with other volunteers, took to the streets to ask Manzanita area businesses, locals and visitors how they felt about plastics in the environment, what they could see as a potential solution and then provided information about what merely cutting out that style of carryout bag can have as far as beneficial effects for the local area.
“It takes a bit of self training to get into the habit of using your own bags, emptying them, then putting them back in the car,” said Behrs. “But, really, what’s worth more? A few minutes’ convenience or the life of the planet?”
Receiving the help of Megan Ponder, a Nehalem area resident who had prior experience with the City of Portland on Sustainable Policy, they drafted an ordinance with the kind of language that reflected other bag ordinances in Oregon, with a hopeful intent of possibly using this later down the line for other communities or even a statewide ban.
Presenting the draft-ordinance to City Manager Jerry Taylor, the ordinance was put on the July 12 council meeting agenda, the following month Behrs and Ponder submitted a revised version, after completing all the wording in the ordinance the Manzanita City Council passed the effort unanimously during the Sept. 5 meeting.
“We live in an amazing place where we are always looking for ways we can better our community,” said Linda Kozlowski, City Council President. “As the first coastal community in Oregon to ban single-use plastic bags, Manzanita is a leader, taking action on an issue important to its residents that will inspire other coastal communities impacted by plastic pollution.”
Currently the ordinance has a 60-day grace period before enforcement goes into effect to allow residents and businesses enough time to make the switch. As far as how Behrs feels about the accomplishment she and her team of volunteers have achieved she mentioned it was definitely a cause for celebration and how pleased she was that the community values its oceanic environment enough to make such an important step toward limiting plastic pollution.
“Our hope would be that other coastal cities will see that the process for passing a ban isn’t onerous or difficult for a small community,” said Behrs. “I wanted folks to see that just a handful of dedicated citizens could make a real difference in the amount of plastic washing up on our shores.”
As far as any future efforts, Behrs said she hopes that other communities will take on a similar effort and eventually wants to see action on the state level. Behrs did mention the others she was involved with deserve recognition and that they may choose to take things further after this most recent ordinance.
“I couldn’t have done this alone and I want to exemplify that Michael Maginnis, Karen Reddick-Yurka and Megan Ponder have been absolutely instrumental in the process,” said Behrs.
“I applaud the City of Manzanita for taking this step,” said Reddick-Yurka, co-organizer of the effort. “Plastic bags are difficult to recycle and many of them never make it to the recycle bin, instead ending up in trees and eventually in the ocean. Fortunately, there are good alternatives to single-use carryout bags. Thank you, citizens of Manzanita, for encouraging the council to approve this measure.”