Last week a group of high school students pitched City Council with a complete policy that would ban plastic bags in Hillsboro. Council’s response: they like the idea, but the student-designed policy doesn’t go far enough.
The students, all members of the city’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC), proposed a ban on single-use plastic checkout bags at all Hillsboro retailers during a September 4 work session. The policy included exceptions for restaurants, produce, laundry, and pet waste bags. Ideally customers will bring their own reusable bags to retail outlets, but stores would be permitted to charge a five cent surcharge for paper bags when that’s not the case. WIC participants would be exempt from paying the surcharge.
YAC members surveyed residents about such a policy and found broad support. The policy as outlined is based on measures already taken in similar cities across Oregon.
City council expressed support for the policy, and commended the YAC for outlining the extent of the problem.
“I’m really happy we have a YAC that is not only learning about leadership but is doing it,” said Councillor Anthony Martin.
Councillors did want to change the policy, but not in the way you might expect. Generally in these situations it’s politicians telling teens that they’re being idealistic, that their policies aren’t practical. In this case councillors had the opposite reaction, insisting that the policy as outlined doesn’t go far enough.
Councillor Martin, for example, said that restaurants should not be exempted. Councillor Rick Van Beveren, who owns Reedville Cafe, agreed. Councillor Fred Nachtigal suggested that dry cleaners also shouldn’t be exempted, and at one point even implied that the city should ban plastic straws.
Nachtigal also felt there is no need for WIC participants to have an exemption, because reusable bags are so easy to acquire.
“I’ve never bought a reusable bag and I have four dozen of them,” said Nachtigal.
Council was divided on this point, with a few councillors arguing the five cents charge imposed an undue burden on the poor.
Regardless, without exception city council is supportive of banning plastic bags. City employees will take the YAC proposal, along with council’s suggestions, and turn it into an ordinance for October. It seems pretty freaking likely to pass.