Guest opinion by

Timoth McGarry

Ray’s doing away with plastic bags comes as no surprise in a way. After all, Ray’s (under the banner of C&K Market, Inc.) has over 65 stores in northern California and Oregon and was recently designated as “Healthiest Employer in Oregon” according to the C&K website.

The problem with plastic bags has been well documented. Just a few examples: estimates that 300 million bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean each year; and from Wikipedia: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which has been estimated to be at least as big as Texas, consists primarily of plastic polymers.

With data such as this, it stands to reason that Ray’s, with its numerous coastal stores, had to eventually move away from plastic. The fact that they have decided to lead, rather than to follow on this issue is certainly commendable.

Yet, where do California cities stand on this issue? According to calculations made from the Californians Against Waste website, at least 80 cities in California have adopted ordinances with a ban on plastic bags.

While a number of these ordinances don’t go into effect until later this year, San Francisco kicked off the trend almost six years ago with a partial ban on plastic grocery bags. In 2012, they expanded this ban to all retailers.

There is a significant difference, however, between what Ray’s and the cities are doing. Most of the city ordinances require customers who do not bring their own recyclable or paper bags to pay 10 cents per bag, and in some locations, they have to pay as much as 25 cents per bag.

Of course, most stores do not voluntarily want to charge customers for bags. Most of us are already upset enough with the cost of groceries. However, consider this: in the cost of our groceries, we are ALL paying for those bags, which cost the stores 7 to 10 cents each. Most assuredly, Ray’s is not eating that cost.

Mount Shasta city officials may say that plastic bags from here will not find their way into the ocean, or that most of the cities that have banned bags are near the ocean. All true.

Yet, is there anyone who has not seen a plastic bag blowing around the city streets or along I-5? Every time I see one, I want to get out of my car and pick it up, but most of the time this is not practical. I’ve deemed my life more valuable than that blowing bag, but it does gall me.

Ray’s has taken a bold step as a retailer. The question is: Does Mount Shasta, as an “inland city,” also want to lead on this issue by adopting an ordinance banning plastic bags? Or, will we wait until ALL California cities must adopt such an ordinance?

I for one, hope that we decide to lead.