Release & resource guide: Oregon latest state to ban plastic foam

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For immediate release: Monday, May 8, 2023

Release & resource guide: Oregon latest state to ban plastic foam

States taking action to eliminate easily breakable, environment-polluting materials 

SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Tina Kotek on Monday signed into law a bill making Oregon the 9th state to ban polystyrene foam. This pernicious plastic, often referred to by the brand name Styrofoam, presents a unique threat to both wildlife and people alike. Because it takes so long to decompose, if it decomposes at all, polystyrene foam is effectively not biodegradable. Research suggests that plastic foam could last for centuries and therefore threaten the health of wildlife for generations.

“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. “We are thrilled that Oregon is taking this important step to phase out some of the most wasteful plastic products, and continuing to build a future where we put our planet and public health over convenience.”

Oregon is just one of many states where the Public Interest Network’s PIRG and/or Environment state groups have worked with lawmakers in recent years to limit the spread of plastic pollution. Evidence proves that such bans have positively impacted the states that have taken action.

For example, in the first year after Maryland’s foam ban went into effect in 2020, a Baltimore trash-collection group noted a drop from a high of 22,000 foam containers collected in a month to about 4,000 per month.

Statewide bans on single-use foam containers

States with bans before this week in red. Go to this link for an interactive version of this map.

Photo by PIRG | TPIN

Some states are enacting more comprehensive plastic bans. For example, Colorado’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which kicks in on Jan. 1, 2024, not only says food establishments will no longer be able to use polystyrene containers; it also says that stores will no longer be allowed to furnish customers with a single-use plastic bag when they check out and single-use paper bags will cost 10 cents each.

“Too often you see pieces of foam cups and plastic bags along our rivers or flapping in the branches of trees,” said CoPIRG Executive Director Danny Katz. “We don’t need to live in a state where pollution is just part of the process of getting food back to your house. Colorado’s actions move us toward reducing waste and protecting our ecosystems.”

Washington state will enforce new plastic foam laws soon, too. In 2021, Washington passed what was, at the time, the nation’s strongest ban on expanded polystyrene. Washington’s policy will next ban foam packing peanuts starting June 1, 2023, and foam cups, takeout containers, and coolers beginning June 1, 2024. 

Legislators in Illinois and Massachusetts have also made progress in recent sessions toward cutting back on the use of polystyrene in their states.