The Astoria City Council is throwing its support behind legislation that would ban single-use plastic bags statewide.
The city “wishes to take action to counter the environmental damage cased by pollution from plastics, particularly the microplastics that are spreading in the environment and advancing through the food chain,” states a letter signed by Mayor Bruce Jones on Tuesday.
The letter, which will be sent to state legislators, also supports bills to restrict polystyrene containers and plastic straws. It was drafted this week at the urging of residents during a City Council meeting Monday.
City councilors had discussed the possibility of a citywide plastic bag ban in September. Though they supported the idea, they were not sure how to best approach the issue. They later tabled the discussion over concerns about lack of staff resources in light of other city priorities.
On Monday, Jones said he told state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, he supported a statewide plastic bag ban. But, he told councilors, he preferred to wait and see how the bill progresses in Salem before pushing for a local ban.
“It’s really not efficient to have 75 different jurisdictions trying to pass their own ordinances,” the mayor said. “The latest intelligence that I have as of today is there’s a very strong likelihood of (the state) legislation passing, so we’ll be listening to see how that goes.”
Local advocates said a letter or resolution from the city could send a strong message to legislators.
Craig Davidson, an Astoria resident who serves on the board of Friends of Haystack Rock, asked for the letter. He also urged city councilors to look beyond the plastic bag issue and support other measures to reduce the amount of plastic going into the environment.
“Astoria can’t save the whole world by itself but we can take a stand,” Davidson said.
City Councilor Roger Rocka agreed and pushed to address plastic more broadly in the city’s letter.
Jesse Jones, an Astoria resident and former coordinator for the North Coast Watershed Association, has spoken with councilors for several years about a citywide ban on plastic bags. She is involved as a volunteer in a number of environmental advocacy efforts, including water quality testing with the Surfrider Foundation.
She agreed with Davidson that a letter of support from Astoria was needed.
“I think that could be helpful for getting this passed faster,” she told the City Council on Monday.
Recently, Seaside and Gearhart have considered local plastic bag bans. In Tillamook County, Manzanita, Wheeler and Bay City have all banned plastic bags.