Victory! New state laws will reduce pollution from plastic foam and packaging

Oregon and Washington are taking the kind of concrete steps we need to achieve zero waste.

Staff | TPIN
It takes a village to win action on plastic pollution. State Rep. Janeen Sollman (second from left) celebrates the passage of Oregon's polystyrene foam ban with Environment Oregon State Director Celeste Meiffren-Swango (first on left) and staff from our coalition partners at Oceana and Surfrider Foundation.
Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

More states are giving the boot to some of the worst single-use plastics.

With northwestern neighbors Oregon and Washington each passing new plastic reduction laws in recent weeks, we can celebrate a big step forward in the effort to get the worst, most unnecessary, most wasteful single-use plastics out of our lives.

Oregon says goodbye to plastic foam

Oregon lawmakers have voted to phase out polystyrene foam foodware, packing peanuts and coolers statewide. All this wasteful plastic “stuff” sticks around for centuries after being thrown out and is nearly impossible to recycle — instead clogging our landfills and polluting our environment.

In recent years, staff with PIRG and Environment Oregon have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in Oregon to talk about the need to move beyond polystyrene foam. The overwhelming response: “It’s about time!”

But the Beaver State’s new laws don’t stop there. Lawmakers also passed a bill requiring an update to the state’s health code to make it easier for restaurants to provide reusable container options.

Washington tackles wasteful packaging

Washington state, meanwhile, is already a national leader when it comes to reducing waste and pollution from single-use plastic foam products — in 2021, following advocacy by PIRG, Environment Washington and others, lawmakers passed the strongest ban on polystyrene foam in the country.

Now, the state is taking on more harmful and unnecessary single-use plastics. A new law requires that new buildings constructed with water fountains also contain bottle filling stations; phases out the use of small plastic containers, wrappers and packaging for personal care items like shampoo or soap by hotels and other lodging establishments; bans soft film-wrapped floats and docks; and mandates a study of hard-shell foam-filled floats and docks.

It just goes to show: When groups like ours and citizen advocates like you mobilize for concrete, commonsense solutions that will move our communities beyond single-use plastic, we can win.

What’s next in the effort to move beyond plastic

These new laws are a huge step in the right direction — but we can’t take our foot off the gas now. 

Plastic waste is still being dumped into our communities, our oceans and our open spaces at an astonishing rate. And all the while, major corporations continue to flood our lives with unnecessary single-use plastics even as it’s become clear that the vast majority of all that “stuff” can’t or won’t be recycled.

With our supporters by our side, we’ll keep pushing for more bold action to address the plastic waste crisis and build the zero-waste future we all deserve.


Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

Celeste Meiffren-Swango

State Director, Environment Oregon

As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.