The state of Oregon is taking a progressive step towards reducing plastic pollution by banning the use of polystyrene foam dishware and packing peanuts in food packaging. Senate Bill 543, which bans the use of polystyrene foam containers for takeout food, has been passed by both the Oregon Senate and House.
The bill also prohibits the use of PFAs, or “forever chemicals”, in food packaging. Polystyrene foam, which is hard to recycle and can scatter in the wind, is used to make cups, plates, and takeout containers generally.
Senate Bill 545 directs the Oregon Health Authority to update the state’s health code to make it easier for restaurants to provide reusable containers to customers. On January 1, 2025, the bill will take effect.
In order to repel grease, PFAS chemicals, which have negative health effects including cancer, high cholesterol, reproductive and thyroid problems, and immune suppression, are used in food packaging. Owing to the potential for cross-contamination with pathogens or allergens, reusable containers and refill systems are not allowed under US Food and Drug Administration rules.
New rules allowing grocery stores and other retailers to offer reusable containers and refill systems were adopted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture in February. The bill created penalties of up to $500 per day for selling or distributing foam containers, peanuts, or foodware containing PFAS.
The bill also prohibits the sale of prepared food in polystyrene foam containers for restaurants and other food vendors. As there are better technologies and materials available, Styrofoam, which was patented in 1944 and is known to be terrible for the environment, is still used in packaging for new appliances.
Not accepted in curbside recycling, plastic foam is one of the top items found polluting Oregon’s beaches. Since 2019, polystyrene prohibitions have been enacted by several other states, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Previously passed by the Senate with a vote of 20 to 9, SB 543 was passed by the House with a vote of 40 to 18. Previously passed by the Senate with a vote of 19 to 8, SB 545 was passed by the House with a vote of 39 to 17.
The legislation will facilitate the elimination of toxic and wasteful products and a shift away from a throw-away culture. The state senators Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro; Michael Dembrow, D-Portland; and & Rep Maxine Dexter, D-Portland, sponsored the bills.
The bills will make it easier for Oregon businesses to offer reusable options and help create a zero-waste future. Oregon continues to lead the country in progressive agendas, inspiring other states to move forward. The bills will help create a zero-waste future.