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Oregon Plastic Pollution Policies on the Move!

The Oregon Legislative session is in full swing and plastic pollution policies are on the move! Last week, the Senate passed a bill with bipartisan support (19-8, see vote here) that will make it easier for businesses and consumers to utilize reusable containers - aiming to cut down on single use waste and save businesses money. Today, the Senate Energy and Environment Committee passed unanimously a bill with bipartisan support to put an end on polystyrene foam food containers, packing peanuts and coolers. Both bills are priority Surfrider campaigns in Oregon and the result of the tireless efforts of our broader Zero Waste Coalition.

Senator Janeen Sollman, Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, poses with her nemesis just prior to the committee's unanimous passage of SB 543, a bill to end foam food container takeout in Oregon restaurants and among other areas of use. Senator Sollman is championing most of the plastic pollution bills and a key leader on the issue in Oregon.

Surfrider Foundation is super proud of the leadership and momentum that is happening this year on plastic pollution. Since the passage of Oregon's plastic bag ban in 2019 it's been extremely challenging to make progress on these other key plastic pollution bills such as eliminating polystyrene foam in takeout and packaging or even improving the health code to make room for refillable and reuse systems that help cut down on single use plastic waste AND save businesses and consumers money. Both legislative efforts failed to even get scheduled for more than a hearing in nearly every legislative session since 2019. In 2021, when Oregon was pushing for one of the first extended producer responsibility bills in the nation, legislators fell short of including any meaningful plastic reduction goals or targets - instead solely focusing on recycling and modernizing the system we've all been lied to about for decades. Failing to schedule key bills aimed at reducing the most toxic and pervasive plastics we find in our environment, oceans, food, water and even in our bodies, the past 4 legislative sessions have been tough for the plastic pollution advocates.

Senator Janeen Sollman poses with our Plastic Pledge we circulated on on Rise Above Plastic Pollution Day, March 14, with key advocates Celeste Meiffren-Swango of Environment Oregon,
Tara Brock of Oceana and Charlie Plybon of Surfrider Foundation

So in 2022, we got serious with Environment Oregon and forged stronger collaboration and support from partners to form the Zero Waste Coalition and introduce a comprehensive suite of plastic pollution policies in 2023. Tara Brock of Oceana and Anja Brandon of Ocean Conservancy joined our team and with outstanding leadership by Celeste Meiffren-Swango of Environment Oregon we created the Zero Waste Coalition - later joined by Oregon Environmental Council, OSPIRG students, and Metro. The result, nearly all our plastic pollution bills have legs this legislative session and are moving! I couldn't be more proud of our Zero Waste team and some of the rising leaders in battling plastic pollution. Four or five failed legislative sessions will tear you down or make you stronger, I usually think 2-3 sessions is the sweet spot for policy-making, but so goes our unwavering interest to address plastic pollution...we rise again stronger than ever.