Paper bags are stocked beneath a counter at Logan's Market in Vale, as grocery stores and other retailers across Oregon implement the state's new ban on plastic bags. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

VALE – The first day of the new decade brought with it a statewide ban on something that many local shoppers probably never thought twice about until now: Plastic bags.

Retailers can no longer provide the plastic bags and can charge at least 5 cents for paper bags.

In Vale, the manager of Logan’s Market, Margie Weatherby, said there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the plastic bag ban, and that many customers don’t understand why they have to pay for a paper bag.

The change has left store workers, like Weatherby, to explain the new law to their customers.

Created by the 2019 Legislature through House Bill 2905, the law prohibits the use of single-use plastic bags not only at grocery stores, but also at retail shops and restaurants.

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The law, however, does not affect the smaller produce bags, and the charge on paper bags may be more than a nickel, depending on the store.

Some stores are also selling reusable canvas, vinyl or thick plastic bags that can be washed out and reused.

Weatherby said that she encountered some angry customers in Vale at first, but that people are starting to get accustomed.

“They are adjusting. It was kind of a cultural shock the first couple of days,” Weatherby said. “People are kind of getting in the swing of buying the reusable bags … which means eventually they won’t go through as much paper.”

Weatherby said that the 5-cent fee for the bags doesn’t cover the store’s cost. 

Standing near the customer service counter at Logan’s one recent day, Ina Schaffeld and Shelly Dennis were chatting. In Schaffeld’s cart sat a reusable grocery bag.

“This is my maiden voyage,” Schaffeld said of her first trip to the store since the ban went into effect.

Dennis said she doesn’t understand how effective the ban will be in reducing plastic.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Dennis said. “Because everything is still in plastic. You are not really getting rid of anything.”

Dennis also wondered how the ban would be policed by the state.

“It’s sort of a law that’s not going to get anywhere,” Dennis said.

“It’s just harassing us oldsters,” Schaffeld added.

Outside in the parking lot at Logan’s, Kassie Tuttle was loading paper bags full of groceries into her car.

“I don’t like it,” Tuttle said of the bag ban. “It’s kind of a hassle.”

In Nyssa, Kyle Adolphson, manager at the M & W Market, said that opinions about the new law go both ways. He said the hardest part is getting people to understand the stores have no choice.

“It is not the stores, it is Oregon,” Adolphson said.

Adolphson said in the long run, the paper bags actually end up costing the store more because they end up paying more for the bags than they get selling them to customers.

At M&W Market, the paper bags cost 25 cents. However, people on food stamps receive the bags for free.

Jillian Gonzalez, the owner and operator of the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in Ontario, said that most people seem OK with the new law.

“The community was well informed,” Gonzalez said.

She said customers are bringing their own bags, but if they forget, there are free boxes that customers can use to carry their groceries.

At the Grocery Outlet, paper bags go for 10 cents, and customers using food stamps receive three for free.

The store also sells vinyl reusable bags for $1 and canvas bags for $3.

Gonzalez said that the store is neither losing or making money as a result of the new law.   

“It is pretty much a wash,” Gonzalez added.

The stores transferred their leftover plastic bags to their respective chains operated in Idaho.

News tip? Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.