Bags given out at grocery stores are not free; their cost is buried in the price of goods purchased. With a plastic bag fee, market forces will bring down the cost of goods while consumers will have a choice whether to pay for bags or bring their own clean, reusable ones.

It’s not a tax. It’s a fee that gives everyone a choice: Bring bags or pay for bags. It is not designed to prey on those less fortunate. Fees collected are used to provide more free reusable bags to those who need them. Program success relies strongly on this self-perpetuating cycle.

It’s not an outright ban. The goal of a fee-based program is to eliminate plastic as quickly as possible while easing the burden of the transition on both retailers and consumers. Aspects of already successful bag fee programs in Washington, D.C., and 47 other U.S. municipalities could facilitate a carefully planned transition here in Portland that includes education, free reusable bags and support.

Single-use plastic bags with handles are the target of the fee. Research shows that very few are actually recycled. Reports of birds and marine mammals impacted each year from eating or becoming tangled in disposed plastic are growing.

Single-use plastic never fully decomposes; it breaks down into small toxic particles that make their way into the food chain. Once there, life as we know it is increasingly at risk.

The current Maine program, albeit well-intentioned, is designed to modestly reduce plastic, not expedite its elimination.

Regardless of the effort’s size or impact on the overall waste stream, Portland is already a proven leader with a progressive reputation. The city’s successful implementation will prompt nearby municipalities to follow this lead — the impact exponential.