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Oregon Foam and Plastic Free Foodware

05 • 08 • 2023

Oregon Foam and Plastic Free Foodware

Victory! Oregon passed SB 543 which will phase out polystyrene foam foodware, packing peanuts and coolers and prohibit the use of PFAS, toxic "forever chemicals", in food packaging starting January 1, 2025.

On May 8, 2023 Oregon's Governor Kotek signed into law SB 543, Oregon's effort to phase out polystyrene foam foodware, packing peanuts and coolers. Following nearly five years of advocacy, Surfrider celebrates this statewide action in the first of several important steps to address single-use plastics more comprehensively in the food and restaurant space. While the action addresses some of the worst plastics in this industry space, Surfrider looks forward to working with a statewide alternatives working group, also created by the bill's sponsors, to better define single-use and reusable alternatives.

One of the most egregious single-use plastics is expanded polystyrene (EPS), more commonly known as StyrofoamTM. Oregon chapters of Surfrider Foundation are all too familiar with the challenge of this single-use plastic with EPS foam making the top 10 items of all our beach, river and highway cleanups. A nightmare to clean up once in the environment, plastic foam breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, accumulating toxics, fouling the environment and endangering wildlife. Surfrider Foundation’s Oregon chapter network worked with coalition of partners during the 2023 legislative session on a statewide bill, SB 543, that would ban EPS takeout containers, coolers, packing peanuts, cups and PFAS across the state - a strong stepping stone for addressing a nasty health and environmental problem associated with single-use plastics and take-out. Learn more about this legislation here via our Foam Free Oregon Fact Sheet.

Getting past single-use plastics in our marine environment means addressing more comprehensively the plastic take-out and foodware culture, beyond just EPS foam. While SB 543 is a great stepping stone for addressing one of the worst materials, we need to shift away from single-use products and towards reusables rather than other types of single-use products. The plastics industry made defining those suitable single-use alternatives nearly impossible through legislation and our Zero Waste coalition had to heavily compromise the bill to just eliminating expanded polystyrene. But, that's why we'll be working with sponsoring legislator, Senator Janeen Sollman, on a task force to address foodware more comprehensively and make recommendations on single-use alternatives for the 2025 legislative session. Learn more about our direction on this from our Comprehensive Foodware Oregon Fact Sheet.

Surfrider Chapters have documented and cleaned up this stuff on Oregon's beaches and environment for decades now, they've done outreach, held legislative rallies, testified in dozens of committees, and passed local ordinances up and down the coast over the years. And following 5 years of legislative efforts to get this done statewide, it felt good to get this first step across the finish line!

Campaign updates:

UPDATE 12/05/2022: The Oregon legislature failed to act in 2021 on the above bills. Throughout 2022, Oregon Surfrider staff and volunteers began expanding a broader coalition of partners in this and other plastic pollution legislative efforts, recognizing the need for increased capacity and advocacy to get this bill across the finish line. In January of 2023, our coalition will launch our legislative strategy to once and for all eliminate EPS foam and rigid single use plastic in take-out foodware. To date, we have 5 key legislative policies targeting plastic pollution and recycling that we will be introducing with our coalition. Stay tuned!

Update 01/20/2023: Surfrider and zero waste partners launch a powerful package of legislative efforts aimed at reducing plastic pollution, including SB 543, a policy aimed at eliminating foam foodware, packing peanuts, coolers and PFAS - more info. 

Update 02/14/2023: Day of Action - Break up with plastics this Valentine's and support our plastic pollution policies in Salem. More info. 

Update 03/23/2023: Surfrider's plastic pollution policies are on the move! More info. 

Update 04/26/2023: Our legislation, SB 543 has passed the Oregon legislature and is headed to the Oregon Governor's desk. More info. 

Update 05/08/2023: Oregon Governor Kotek signs SB 543. More info.