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COALITION PRESS RELEASE: Governor Kotek signs two bills to reduce plastic pollution in Oregon

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SALEM, OR- Governor Tina Kotek signed two bills into law to address the growing environmental and public health impacts of single-use plastics Monday, positioning Oregon as a national leader in reducing plastic pollution.

Senate Bill 543 will phase out polystyrene foam foodware, packing peanuts and coolers and prohibit the use of PFAS, the toxic substances nicknamed “forever chemicals” because of their longevity, in food packaging starting January 1, 2025.

Senate Bill 545 instructs the Oregon Health Authority to update the state’s health code to make it easier for restaurants to provide reusable container options, no later than June 30, 2024. 

According to recent polling conducted by Oceana, 92% of Oregonians say they are concerned about plastic pollution and its impact on the environment and our oceans, and 89% support requiring companies to reduce single-use plastic packaging and foodware.

Advocates celebrated Senate Bill 543 and Senate Bill 545 being signed into law as significant steps forward in reducing plastic pollution:

“Nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute the environment for hundreds of years,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, Environment Oregon’s state director. “The two bills signed by Governor Kotek today will help Oregon eliminate toxic and wasteful products, shift away from our throwaway culture and build a future where we produce less waste. We’re proud to see Oregon building on our legacy of environmental stewardship.”

“We are excited that Oregon has joined other West Coast states in taking practical steps to address the impacts that single-use plastic pollution is having on our oceans, communities, and climate, said Tara Brock, Oceana’s Pacific Counsel based in Portland. “Polystyrene foam is an egregious form of single use plastic that is made from fossil-fuels and is toxic to the environment and human health. It’s past time that we move away from harmful single-use products toward reusable and refillable alternatives that were once the norm. These two bills start us on that path and we applaud Governor Kotek for listening to the voices of Oregonians who overwhelmingly support state policies that reduce single-use plastic.”

“It’s time to take out the single-use takeout! Senate Bill 543 and 545 aim to help Oregon improve on a one-way, throwaway food service economy. Businesses spend $24 billion a year on disposable food service items. As one of the top items we find on Oregon’s beaches and throughout the environment, millions more each year is spent cleaning this stuff up,” said Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager with Surfrider Foundation. 

“These bills are a huge victory for the ocean and the Oregon communities that depend on it,” said Dr. Anja Brandon, Associate Director of U.S. Plastics Policy at Ocean Conservancy. “Ocean Conservancy data show that foam food ware is one of the most prevalent single-use plastics polluting beaches and waterways here in Oregon and around the world. Not only is foam particularly damaging given how easily it breaks up into microplastics, it is also not recyclable, meaning the best-case scenario for these products is a landfill. As we move away from single-use plastics like foam, it’s critical to pass bills like SB 545 that help move us towards reusable systems. We’re thrilled to see Governor Kotek sign these bills into law and we look forward to seeing other states follow Oregon’s example.”

“In recent years, our staff have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in Oregon about the need to move beyond polystyrene foam and the overwhelming response was ‘It’s about time!’,” said Charlie Fisher, state director with OSPIRG. “It’s exciting to see Oregon move further towards a world where we reduce and reuse instead of use once and throwaway.”

“Not only is styrene toxic for human and environmental health, but so is PFAS in foodware,” said Jamie Pang, Environmental Health Program Director at the Oregon Environmental Council. “PFAS has been found in the blood of nearly every American, including newborn babies. Phasing out PFAS in foodware is a common sense way to eliminate a significant source of exposure to cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals. We commend our lawmakers for taking action on this.”

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About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

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