Plastic bag in downtown Astoria

A plastic bag discarded near the Clatsop County Heritage Museum in Astoria.

It is heartbreaking to see photos of wildlife and sea species that have died from swallowing or becoming tangled in plastic bags.

It is more than annoying to be driving and have plastic bags littering the side of the road or empty ones blowing up into your windshield.

The new Oregon law banning single-use plastic bags is a small step toward alleviating both issues.

The concept is designed as a way to enhance the environment and reduce the amount of nonbiodegradable material going into our landfills. It goes hand in hand with a ban on restaurants automatically offering customers single-use plastic straws.

We fully expect there to be some grumbling over the apparent lack of convenience. Of course, many of us carry our groceries home in plastic bags and then use them around the house for various projects.

This state action is a small step, but a significant one. It should be considered as part of an approach that embraces the philosophy of, “think globally, act locally.”

Oregon was once considered the leading environmentally conscious state. It was a pioneer on recycling and its 1971 Bottle Bill was the model embraced by much of the nation. In this endeavor, it is actually catching up. California, Hawaii and New York have taken the lead. It is high on the agenda in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and Wisconsin, too.

There is evidence that actions can change behavior.

Restrictions were introduced in Great Britain in 2015 when grocery stores began charging for bags at checkouts. There were accompanying public outreach campaigns to discourage their use.

The move prompted a countrywide lifestyle change — back to the 1950s’ approach. Now British shoppers have resumed carrying their own canvas bags into stores and filling them up at the checkout counter. We should do the same. The only inconvenience is remembering to bring your bags.

The British government official in charge of environmental policy later said the significant reduction in the use of plastic bags that this prompted was “a powerful demonstration that we are collectively ‘calling time’ on being a throwaway society.”

Far from being an unreasonable intrusion in personal convenience, we believe that it is an important role of government to lead the way. We have one planet and such steps to enhance the environment are reasonable.

Back in 2006, the Los Angeles Times earned significant applause for highlighting the appalling quantity of plastic pollution floating around in the world’s oceans. That was 14 years ago. It is reasonable to assume the threat is significantly worse today.

As we mention the issue, it is pleasing to give a tip of the hat to those forward-thinking people in Manzanita for leading the way — back in 2017 — well before this statewide action was taken. Other communities and businesses in Tillamook County have also taken strides to play their part and Seaside took action last year.

We believe “think globally, act locally” needs to become more than a catchphrase. Oregon lawmakers should continue to take the lead, but we can all play our part, too.

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