The Oregon Senate passed a bill on Monday, 3 April 2023, making it illegal for food vendors to use foam containers, which take hundreds of years to break down.
Polystyrene takeout containers, also called Styrofoam, a trademarked name, were banned by Senate Bill 543, which passed 20-9 with support from both parties. It’s now in the House.
Sen. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, one of the prominent people behind the bill, said that polystyrene is terrible for the health of our communities and our land. “This is a step toward a more sustainable and thoughtful way of living and a promise to protect Oregon’s health, beauty, and diversity for future generations.”
Polystyrene is a plastic made from oil, and it was first made for sale in the 1930s. Environmentalists have been after the stuff that doesn’t break down for decades. In 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency said that making polystyrene was the fifth most significant source of toxic waste.
They also end up as trash; the foam can break into small pieces, hurting wildlife and making waterways dirty.
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Vendors can use paper cups and cardboard food containers in places where containers aren’t allowed.
If the measure passes, it will go into effect in 2025 and apply to restaurants, delis, and food trucks and carts, among other places. Food vendors who broke the rules could be fined up to $100 daily.
Eight Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas, were among the nine senators who voted against the bill.
Sen. Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction, said that the bill is another example of a restriction on businesses.
“Here we go again,” Robinson said in a statement explaining his vote. “Another small requirement. We are now deciding what disposable containers restaurants may use.”
Cities in Oregon, like Portland, Ashland, Eugene, Florence, Lincoln City, Medford, Milwaukie, Newport, and Silverton, have passed laws that ban polystyrene foam food ware.
Other states, like Washington, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Virginia, have passed laws that limit how much polystyrene can be used.