Plastic bags: Committee seeks business opinions, options

February 2018 Posted in Community

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 4.18.06 PMBy Melissa Wagoner

Silverton resident Dana Smith wears many hats; one as an active and concerned community member, one as a City Councilor and one as chairperson of the Environmental Management Committee formed by the Council in November 2015.

“On most issues I try not to impose my personal opinion on other people,” she said. “My role on the Environmental Committee is just to lead the conversation and craft procedure on how to address
the issues.”

The original purpose of the committee was as a liaison with Republic Services regarding rate increases. In response to that issue the committee was able to work with the waste and recycling company to facilitate residential composting into green bins as a way to reduce the tonnage of incinerator-bound trash.

“A lot of people were able to go down a container size and thus a monthly rate,” Smith said. “There was so much energy after that success that Rick Lewis, then Silverton’s mayor, said, ‘I think we should expand this committee.’ We went from a five member committee to a seven member committee.”

A new item is on the agenda – one that appeared as a question on the 2016 Community Survey – is should the city ban the use of plastic bags and polystyrene disposable containers. Although the committee has had initial discussions on the subject, both Smith and Mayor Kyle Palmer stress that the process is in very early days.

“[T]his is a discussion and consideration at this point and should not be confused with an ‘agenda’ that the council may have or a decision that is already made,” Palmer said.

“Just the opposite, this process is designed specifically for public involvement and we will never move forward without providing that opportunity.”

The Environmental Management Committee recently reached out to local businesses with an invitation to attend its February session. Only one business representative attended, a discouraging fact in light of the council’s hope that the issue can be solved by the businesses, not the city.

“My own personal opinion is that all of these types of issues would be better handled privately by the businesses themselves rather than by government intervention, but in some cases, that just may not be possible,” Palmer said.

Smith said the committee plans to make another attempt to reach out to business owners with its March 20, 3 p.m. meeting, especially those who would be most affected by a ban.

“Come and talk to us,” she urged, “and tell us what we can do to reduce your waste stream.”  

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