As always, the beginning of a new year, also marks the implementation of a variety of new laws. Whether bicyclists are rolling through stop signs or the Bottle Bill now including kombucha containers, there is lots to of changes, but the one that we have been hearing the most about from Downtown businesses is the Single-Use Bag Law (formally known as HB 2509). We’ve been working with City of Hillsboro staff to help interpret and clarify how this affects small businesses.
Hillsboro wasn’t the first city in Oregon to adopt an ordinance limiting the use of plastic bags, but we did it in the most inspirational way. Our ordinance was researched, prepared, and presented by an amazing group of local high school students, who make up the Youth Advisory Council (a.k.a. YAC). Their work was praised across the state and quickly became a starting point from which the State government developed the statewide law.
ORDINANCE VS LAW
The State law will mostly supersede the City ordinance. City staff are updating the ordinance in the next several weeks to be consistent with House Bill 2509. The biggest difference (covered below) is that retailers are now required to charge a minimum of $0.05 per bag. Link to City information here.
HOUSE BILL 2509
The implementation and long-term management of the law has been assigned to DEQ. So, rather than reinterpret the law for you, here is a link to their website.
Of course, they didn’t think of every question we would come up with when they posted this information. We are fortunate to have a City staff member, Peter Brandom, who is helping us get those additional questions answered. Peter created this FAQ in English and Spanish to address many of initial questions he heard. Here are a couple more questions we’ve had answered:
Q: So, as long as I’m not providing plastic bags at check-out, I’m good?
A: Not exactly. For example, paper bags must have a minimum of 40% recycled content fiber. Please check out the DEQ website or contact Peter if you are wondering about a specific bag.
Q: Where does the $0.05 collected for bags go?
A: The business keeps it to help defray the difference in cost between plastic and paper. It’s not meant to cover the whole cost, but it’s also an attempt to put value on a disposable item that consumers have taken for granted. Businesses can charge more for bags, but they are required to charge at least $0.05.
Q: Same goes for restaurants?
A: No. For restaurants, recycled content paper bags may be provided at no cost; reusable plastic bags (4 mil or greater) must be sold for at least $0.05.
Q: Can we give away reusable bags?
A: Stores can provide reusable fabric bags at no cost as a promotion on 12 or fewer calendar days per year, but otherwise must also charge a minimum of $0.05 for those beyond that.
EDUCATION BEFORE ENFORCEMENT
What if someone isn’t following the law? Neither the City of Hillsboro nor the State will be sending around inspectors to make sure that businesses aren’t still handing out plastic bags. But businesses can anticipate hearing about it from customers, who might report them. This doesn’t mean that a Code Enforcement Officer is going to show up and start issuing fines, but instead a City staff member or community partner will check in with the business to ensure they are educated on the new law and help them find resources to aid the transition.
Please don’t throw away the plastic bags, that you may have already purchased before you knew about the law, because that defeats the purpose. Instead use them up or keep them off to the side for special situations until they run out.
The City has supplied HDP with some of those resources to distribute to Downtown businesses. I you are interested in any of these materials, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will deliver them to you.
- Employee breakroom FAQ poster
- “A Better Way to Bag” window clings in both English and Spanish for your door
- Reusable shopping bags (limited quantities) to distribute to customers who haven’t gotten accustomed to carrying a bag with them
A couple of businesses have also inquired about bulk purchasing for recycled paper and reusable bags, so we will be researching the possibilities of that in the future.
If you have any additional questions that are not answered in these resources, Peter invites you to reach out so that he can help you find the answers.
Peter Brandom, Senior Project Manager
6 WAYS TO MAKE THE BAG LAW FUN
Since it’s affecting everyone, we brainstormed at the last Downtown Business Forum about how a small business can spin it in a positive way for their customers. Here are some ideas we heard:
- Provide reusable bags with your logo and that reflect your business’ image. Just remember – don’t put dates on them.
- Order some reusable bags with a catchy phrase or image. Le’Stuff Antique Mall ordered bags that say, “Antiques are the best recyclers”.
- Use reusable bags as a sales promotion: Spend $50 or more this Saturday and get a free “Our Store” shopping bag.
- Encourage folks to buy a few more items with: Everything that fits in the bag gets 10% off.
- Give an ongoing discount to customers who return with your business’ reusable bag.
- One business mailed high-end bags to their best customers, to increase brand loyalty. It also helps them identify the big spenders when they come into shop with their bag.
Try to change the habit of just automatically putting purchases in a bag at check-out. Instead, ask whether your customer needs a bag before even pulling one out.