On Monday night Salem City Council moved the city one step closer to a ban on most single-use plastic bags. Unless something unusual occurs, the ban will go into effect for most retailers on April 1, 2019.

The Council, in a continuation of its September 10th public hearing, considered Ordinance Bill 18-476, which would restrict the use of plastic carryout bags in Salem.

The Monday night version reflected a variety of changes made by city staff. These updated it from the original ordinance first proposed by Ward 2 Councilor Tom Andersen so the bill would better reflect the wishes of councilors. Among the changes:

* The phrase “single use” to describe plastic carryout bags was removed to recognize that plastic bags can be reused multiple times

* Language was added to specifically allow plastic bags that segregate food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other items so they would be exempt from the ban

* Bags made of “woven and non-woven polypropylene” were added to the definition of “reusable bag” so these bags would be allowed in the future

* The provision that a retail establishment “may” provide a low-income customer a free carryout option, was changed to a “must”

At the hearing, the council heard a staff presentation that explained the changes. Staff also set forth other options for the council’s consideration. Public testimony followed, most of which supported the ban. No motions were made to amend the bill.

Andersen, after noting that it was important to take a first step, said, “Perfection should not prevent the good” and made a motion to advance the ordinance to a second reading.

The motion passed 5 – 3, with Councilors Andersen, Kaser, Cook, Ausec and Mayor Bennet for it, and Councilors Nanke, McCoid and Lewis against.

The second reading is understood to be a technicality, with councilors almost certainly voting as they did Monday night.

Afterward, Andersen posted on Facebook, “This ban is a great first step toward Salem becoming more environmentally aware, more sustainable, and more in tune with what we need for our progeny to be able to live in harmony with Mother Earth.”

Andersen said citizens should “do whatever we can on the local level, since our dear leader is taking us (except for the 1%) backward in the service of the profit motive. Look for more to come. Thanks to all those on the Council who supported this ban, to the staff for refining it, and most of all to all the people of Salem who emailed, testified and who are working hard in groups such as 350.org to make our world environment sustainable and one in which we and future generations can continue to live.”