Plastic single-use checkout bags cannot be provided by retailers, grocery stores or restaurants. This includes any plastic checkout bag that is less than 4 mil, even if labeled ‘compostable,’ ‘biodegradable,’ or ‘made from plants.’
Paper checkout bags may be provided by retailers and grocery for a 5-cent (or more) fee per bag (food vendors, including restaurants, fast food and food carts, do not have to charge for paper bags). Paper bags must be made with at least 40% post-consumer recycled fiber.
Reusable bags may be provided for a 5-cent (or more) fee per bag. Reusable bags include thick plastic (4 mil or more) or fabric bags.
WIC voucher or electronic benefits transfer card: Retail stores, grocery stores, and restaurants may provide recycled paper checkout bags or reusable plastic checkout bags for free to customers who have a Women, Infants and Children (WIC) voucher or electronic benefits transfer card.
Bags provided to customers at a time other than checkout, which includes:
- Bags designed to hold bulk items such as small hardware or for sanitary or privacy purposes.
- Certain specialty bags, such as garment bags.
- Bags sold in a package for uses such as food storage, garbage or pet waste.
Reusable bag promotions: Stores may provide free reusable bags as a promotion, but for no more than 12 days per year.
Frequently asked questions
Why ban plastic bags?
Lightweight plastic bags frequently wrap around sorting machinery at recycling facilities, causing the equipment to jam. The machinery then must be manually cleared, accounting for almost a third of labor costs at the facilities and increased risk of staff injuries.
Because they are extremely lightweight, plastic bags can act like balloons blowing out of garbage cans, trucks and landfills. These flyaway bags litter our open spaces, enter storm drains, and can eventually end up in rivers and oceans. They break down into small, toxic pieces that are consumed by wildlife and aquatic animals.
What about “compostable” plastics?
There is no exception for plastic items labeled “compostable,” “biodegradable” or “made from plants.” These items cannot be composted in Portland (read why). Additionally, they can have negative environmental impacts equal to or greater than conventional plastics and are unlikely to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean.
What about small checkout bags?
Any bag provided at checkout is subject to the checkout bag policy requirements, regardless of size. This includes bags provided to customers at checkout for things like a bottle of wine or liquor, notecards, or other small items.
What about events and farmers markets?
Food carts and other prepared food vendors must follow the same rules as restaurants: Plastic single-use checkout bags are not allowed, but paper checkout bags made with at least 40% post-consumer recycled fiber may be provided free of charge. Fruit, vegetable and bakery vendors may provide paper or plastic bags for produce or bakery items.
How can customers avoid the fee?
Customers can avoid the fee by bringing their own bag or refusing a bag when they make a purchase that is easy to carry without a bag.
Where does the fee go?
Businesses keep the fee, which allows them to recover costs in providing paper and reusable bags.
Do businesses need to keep track of fees collected?
For grocery stores, yes, there is a reporting requirementmandated by the State of Oregon that involves collecting data related to (a) collection of the bag fee and (b) customers’ use of paper, fabric, and reusable plastic bags. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is charged with overseeing this report to the State, which is due in September 2024. The City of Portland doesn’t currently have any detail on this other than what is described in State policy and DEQ’s fact sheet.
What happens to businesses that don’t comply?
If a complaint is made to the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability that a business is not complying with this policy, the City will investigate. The first time a business is found out of compliance they will receive a written warning. For subsequent violations, the following penalties apply:
- $100 for the first violation after the written warning in a calendar year.
- $200 for the second violation in the same calendar year.
- $500 for any subsequent violation within the same calendar year.
No more than one penalty shall be imposed on any single location within a 7-day period.
How do I report an out-of-compliance business?
More about the policy
Find policy details from the City of Portland and State of Oregon at:
- State of Oregon Single-Use Bag Ban (January 1, 2020)
- Portland City Code Chapter 17.103 Single-Use Plastic Checkout Bags
- Portland 2012 Plastic Bag Ordinance (updated in December 2019 to comply with State policy)
- Learn about the City of Portland’s by request-only policy for single-use plastic straws, utensils and condiments.
- Need to recycle plastic bags? They should never go your home or work mixed recycling bin, but you can find many convenient drop-off options around Portland.