BEND, OR -- The city of Bend’s ban on single-use plastic grocery bags is causing confusion for some grocery store employees and lots of shoppers, partly because of a state law that passed the Legislature this session. The local ordinance was supposed to take effect Monday. And, technically, it did. But Ben Hemson, with the city, tells KBND news, "The actual enforcement wasn’t going to begin until January 1, 2020, which is the same as this new state law, going forward. And, I think that’s where a lot of the confusion is coming from: ‘Okay, now there are two laws. Which one governs us?’ And, ‘Do we have to comply today?’ And, the answer is, ‘not really'."
The state and local bans vary slightly; under Bend's ordinance, shoppers who choose not to bring their own reusable bag would be charged 10-cents per single-use carry-out bag they use. But, the state law's per-bag fee is just five-cents; although, restaurant take-out bags are also included. Bend's City Council is expected to vote later this month to repeal the local ordinance. That would leave just one set of rules and put the cost and effort of enforcement on the state. Hemson says, "If you aren’t complying with the ban today, or in two weeks, or in two months, you’re not going to have someone knock on your door and write you a ticket. The goal, either way, is to be working toward that January first date for the phase-out of plastic bags. And, you’ll be charging a five-cent fee, per bag at that point, likely, based on the state law; rather than the 10-cent fee that’s in the local ordinance."
Hemson, who works as the city's Business Advocate, is now trying to help local retailers understand the process, "I’m getting a newsletter out to all of our 7,000 businesses in Bend explaining what’s going on, why there are two laws right now, what they should do to comply going forward; and then, big retailers are the ones I think have been prepping most for this new law. So, this week and next week – because we have quite a few of those – I’ll be swinging by as many of those businesses as I can get to, to really just try to talk with their management in person and explain what’s going on." He's urging stores to hold off on charging a bag fee until the city and state rules are finalized.