UPDATE: July 8, 2019: Oregon's proposed ban (HB 2883) on polystyrene foam food containers failed to pass the state Senate, as reported by OPB and others. The bill was defeated in a 15-14 vote on June 11 after three Democrats joined with Republicans in voting against the measure.
- After initially failing a floor vote on April 22, a proposed ban on polystyrene food containers (HB 2883) was passed 32-28 out of Oregon's House of Representatives on April 23.
- If approved by the Senate, the legislation would prohibit food vendors from using polystyrene foam containers — including cups, bowls or plates — in the sale, serving or dispensing of prepared food by January 1, 2021. Violators would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $250 per day.
- "Every day, Oregonians throw away literally tons of plastic in the form of single-use cups plates, utensils and containers," co-sponsor Rep. Sheri Schouten said during Monday's vote, as reported by OPB. "Among the worst forms of plastic pollution is polystyrene foam."
Perceived by many as a symbolic Earth Day vote, HB 2883 failed 29-29 on Monday after a last-minute vote change by veteran Democrat Rep. Jeff Barker. The return of another member on Tuesday helped tip the scales.
According to OPB, opponents criticized the legislation's potential cost hikes for businesses, citing an Oregon-based Agilyx facility as a preferred alternative to an outright ban. The American Chemistry Council, which released a report last month touting the potential of such "chemical recycling" technologies, testified among that group.
The Agilyx plant, which has been in full-scale operation since 2018, is able to depolymerize waste polystyrene into a commercially-viable monomer oil. The company delivered its first load of recycled monomer to polystyrene producer AmSty last month, with production poised to continue ramping up.
"I think we have a solid base of knowledge around how to do chemical recycling. I’m not going to say it's easy, but it’s a natural step to get into other types of polymers," Brian Moe, vice president of operations at Agilyx, told Waste Dive last year. "This is a really good solution to increase recycling overall. I think the industry wants to see a circular economy solution for plastics recycling in general, and polystyrene in particular."
Supporters of the bill, however, maintained during Monday's vote that banning polystyrene would be the most effective path toward curbing plastic pollution. The easily-crumbled material is frequently tossed aside as litter rather than diverted for recycling: in written testimony, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters said that polystyrene waste accounts for 10-40% of litter collected during stream cleanups.
The bill — which joins a string of similar foam ban proposals in states such as Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts — is scheduled for a first reading at the Oregon Senate on April 24.