The disappearing plastic bag

On Jan. 1, Medford residents will bid a fond farewell to plastic grocery bags, even though they can be handy for trash can liners, doggie doo-doo and baby diapers.

“I’m going to miss them,” said Medford resident Evaloy Knight, who puts a paper bag inside a plastic bag for good measure while shopping at Sherm’s Thunderbird in west Medford.

Medford residents are getting ready for the ban on plastic bags starting Jan. 1. Video by Jamie Lusch and Damian Mann

Single-use plastic bags will be banned at grocery stores starting next year. A minimum 5-cent fee will be charged for reusable plastic or paper bags. The ban doesn’t affect the thinner plastic bags used for meat, fruits or vegetables.

Some grocery stores such as Sherm’s Thunderbird will phase out the plastic bags, offering 5-cent paper bags or more expensive reusable cloth bags. However, to save money, consumers will have to remember to bring the reusable bags when they pop into a store.

While she’ll miss the convenience of the plastic bags used for lining her trash cans, Knight said she supports the ban.

“I think it’s smart,” she said. “I see what they’re doing to the fish.”

Knight is referring to reports of millions of tons of plastic floating in the ocean, which is killing fish and wildlife, and getting into the food chain. She said she’s ready to say goodbye to plastic and plans to switch to cloth bags.

Bob Ames, general manager of Sherm’s Thunderbird, said he will continue to stock paper bags, which actually cost more than plastic bags, which are purchased for 2.2 cents. “The paper bags are four times that amount,” he said.

As a result, the store’s costs are more than the 5 cents the customer pays.

Ames said customers appreciate the convenience of the plastic bags, and he expects some customers will not be happy with the change.

“It’s too bad but good for the environment,” he said. “We do feel like there will be a little bit of grumbling.”

In Oregon, 12 cities already had plastic bag bans, including Portland and Ashland.

According to a Nov. 9 Associated Press article, there is a floating region of plastic known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch around Midway Atoll, in a remote northwest portion of the Hawaiian islands.

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