A law requiring Oregon restaurants to stop using plastic foam takeout containers by 2025 is on its way to the desk of Governor Tina Kotek. On Wednesday (April 26), a 40-18 vote gave Senate Bill 543, a long-time aim of Oregon environmental organizations, the final passage in the state House.
Styrofoam, or polystyrene foam, is banned from being used in food containers under the new law. The usage and sale of foam packing peanuts and foam coolers designed for single use are likewise forbidden. The Senate passed the measure at the beginning of April.
Advocates of SB 543 argue that a statewide ban is necessary even if nine communities in Oregon have passed their ordinances limiting foam containers. They point out that foam items aren’t recyclable in most communities, are often discarded as trash, and decompose into tiny fragments that are difficult to collect.
According to state representative and bill lead sponsor Maxine Dexter (D-Portland), “single-use plastics are the predominant waste we clean up,” whether it be by a river, a roadway, or our lovely beaches. “It’s all over, it’s ugly, and it’s hurting people.”
The use of containers containing perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the so-called “forever chemicals” that may make materials like cardboard resistant to grease, is likewise prohibited by SB 543. Some malignancies, high cholesterol, and low birth weight in infants have all been related to PFAS, which do not degrade quickly.
The law will punish anyone selling restricted items between $100 and $500 daily. Some Styrofoam containers, such as those used to transport and store raw materials like egg cartons, may still be utilized.
Oregon environmental groups have been campaigning for years to ban Styrofoam packaging. In 2019, a similar law looked to have a good chance of passing, but it was ultimately shot down due to the opposition of both moderate Democrats and Republicans. Despite the dramatic shift in the political makeup of each chamber, HB 543 was able to sail through with overwhelming support from both parties.
Representative Virgil Osborne (R-Roseburg) stated on Wednesday that the measure would be an easy “yes” vote since it would make people “feel good” and would safeguard the environment. However, Osborne warned that Oregon must ensure less damaging containers are used instead of foam packing.
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While organizations representing restaurants and supermarkets had no stance on Senate Measure 543 (SB 543), the action did face criticism from other sectors. They maintained that the 2021 legislation forcing plastic packaging manufacturers to bear responsibility for their goods and pay safe disposal programs would be sufficient regulation and no need for a ban.
Oregon will join eight other states, including Washington, in banning certain types of foam containers if Kotek passes the measure into law.
SB 545, which requires the Oregon Health Authority to draft regulations allowing restaurants to accept reusable containers for to-go orders, was also approved by the House on Wednesday. The legislation aims to restrict the prevalence of disposable plastic containers even more.
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