Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek signed into law Monday a pair of bills that aim to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. One is a polystyrene foam ban, making Oregon the ninth state to pass such a policy, while the other enables the use of reusable containers at restaurants.
SB 543 prohibits food vendors from serving food in containers made from polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam. It also bans the sale or distribution of foam containers and foam packing peanuts. The law goes further than similar bills introduced in 2019 and 2021 in that it bans packaging that intentionally contains PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.” All the provisions go into effect Jan. 1, 2025, and violators face varying fines for each offense.
SB 545 directs the Oregon Health Authority to update health codes so restaurants may allow customers to bring their own containers to carry food away from the restaurant. It takes effect June 30, 2024.
The new reusable container law follows rules the Oregon Department of Agriculture adopted in February to allow consumers to bring reusable containers to grocery stores for transporting bulk items, superseding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s prohibition of personal containers to prevent the spread of illness or allergens.
Various groups, including packaging manufacturers and associations, signed on to a February statement opposing such laws because of the “costly requirements” that would affect industry. They also said it would grant “unfettered authority to the Environmental Quality Commission to ban any type of plastic packaging it deems ‘unnecessary.’” The groups — including Ameripen, the American Forest & Paper Association, the Flexible Packaging Association, the Foodservice Packaging Institute and Dart Container — say bans ignore the implications of an upcoming extended producer responsibility program that Oregon enacted last year.
Environmental groups including the Surfrider Foundation and the Ocean Conservancy applauded the laws as a way to reduce plastic waste and pollution. “It’s time to take out the single-use takeout!” said Charlie Plybon, Oregon policy manager with Surfrider Foundation, in a statement. “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.”