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Legislature to weigh statewide plastic bag tax, straw ban

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Legislature will consider a statewide tax on plastic bags and a ban on plastic straws.

The Statesman Journal reports a Senate committee voted to introduce both legislative concepts, or preliminary bills, during an informational hearing Wednesday.

Both bills would help reduce plastic waste that ends up in landfills and the environment.

“From our perspective, nothing we use for 10 minutes should pollute the environment for hundreds of years,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, state director of Environment Oregon.

One would impose a 5 cent per bag tax on single-use plastic bags used by retail stores selling food or alcohol, and require the establishments to provide paper checkout bags.

The tax wouldn’t apply to meat and vegetable bags, or other non-checkout bags. And customers who use vouchers and state benefit cards would be exempt.

Money collected would go to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, for a new Plastic Clean-Up and Recycling Fund.

Fourteen Oregon cities have banned single-use plastic bags.

The Legislature previously considered banning plastic bags, in 2010, 2011 and 2012. All three bills died in committee.

This is the first time a tax, rather than a ban, has been proposed. Because the bill would raise revenue, it would require a three-fifths majority approval.

Another measure would prohibit restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws to customers unless they request a straw.

The proposal specifically exempts straws made from sugar cane, pasta and some other natural ingredients.

Violators could be fined up to $25 per day, with a cap of $300 per year.

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