Stepping Up Efforts to Reduce Plastic Pollution in Oregon
By Belinda McFadgen, OEC Volunteer.
“Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our oceans and rivers and threaten wildlife for centuries.” That’s how our friends at Environment Oregon describe the problem of pollution from straws, bags, take-out containers and other single-use plastics. And now, after 14 communities across Oregon have adopted ways to limit single-use plastics, Environment Oregon and Surfrider Foundation are leading an effort to apply solutions statewide.
THE 2019 BILLS
SB 90 and HB 2670 would require restaurants to provide plastic drinking straws only upon customer request. [How these bills fared: SB 90 passed, but the environmental community withdrew support because the straw legislation was crafted by the plastics industry.]
The Surfrider Foundation observed that plastic straws are among the top-10 most commonly found item during beach clean-ups. They developed and piloted a program in Portland with about 100 businesses to reduce straw use. They learned that some customers genuinely need straws, making an outright ban unreasonable. Lessons learned from the pilot were applied to the development of the state bills.
HB 2509 bans single-use plastic check-out bags, except in certain cases. [How the bill fared: HB 2509 passed with amendments!]
Environment Oregon has been the champion for bringing an end to single-use plastic bags. Most recently, they helped bring a ban to Hillsboro. OEC provided testimony, noting the challenges that Oregon’s recycling market faces now that China has deeply restricted the plastic waste they’ll accept from the United States for recycling. We noted that these “urban tumbleweeds” litter our landscape and cost the city by clogging up storm-water management systems.
HB 2883 bans polystyrene take-out containers. Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) takes more than a million years to decompose. [How the bill fared: HB 2883 passed the House but failed in the Senate.]
With enthusiasm, Oregon Environmental Council supports these statewide initiatives. We thank the Surfrider Foundation and Environment Oregon for their hard work and unwavering resolve!