Ban on Styrofoam containers fails even as lawmakers pass plastic bag ban

Credit: Thomas Yuan / CC by 2.0

Democrats were stopped short of pushing through their full environmental agenda when then Senate rejected a ban on food containers made of polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam.

Posted: Jun 11, 2019 2:40 PM
Updated: Jun 11, 2019 6:09 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Senate voted Tuesday to prohibit single-use plastic shopping bags, joining a growing movement to reduce plastic pollution in oceans.

“The majority party focuses on what is convnient for them environmentally. I am glad to see the polystyrene ban did not pass today because one one hand, it would have impacted small businesses, such as food truck owners in downtown Portland, while on the other hand, the legislature buries over 250,000 cubic feet of polystyrene underground for reconstruction projects at the Capitol. It is time for the legislature to focus on passing the budget instead of inconsequential bills such as this one.” - Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. (R-Grants Pass)

The Senate voted 17-12 to keep grocery stores and restaurants from providing such bags. Stores would still be able to offer recyclable plastic and paper bags for a 5-cent fee, something opponents said punished consumers.

The bill will now go to Gov. Kate Brown for consideration. She previously spoke in support of the measure.

Oregon would join California, New York and Hawaii in banning single-use plastic bags.

"Something we use once shouldn't be able to pollute our environment for hundreds of years," said Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Portland Democrat behind the measure.

Democrats were stopped short of pushing through their full environmental agenda when then Senate rejected a ban on food containers made of polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam.

Republicans were against both measures and argued that the bans stifled technological innovation. They also said lawmakers should let the free market come up with solutions to the plastic problem.

Supporters said that the bans were meant to reduce the ever-increasing amount of plastic pollution in the oceans.

Sen. Arnie Roblan and Sen. Betsy Johnson, two Democrats representing coastal areas, voted for the plastic bag ban and joined Republicans in rejecting the prohibition on Styrofoam containers.

Plastic bags and Styrofoam containers are some of the most common types of beach litter. Over 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and the World Economic Forum projects that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down, and even then they break into smaller pieces of debris called microplastics which never degrade and can pose a threat to aquatic life.

The U.S. produced over 126 billion plastic grocery bags in 2015, according to EPA data. Only 12.8% of those bags were recycled.

Styrofoam food containers, meanwhile, are nearly impossible to recycle and only one recycling facility in the state of Oregon accepts them. Maine and Maryland approved statewide bans on the containers last month.

The bills were part of a trio of measures aimed at reducing reliance on disposable plastics, the third being a plastic straw ban that gained legislative approval in late May.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 397421

Reported Deaths: 5299
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah61160856
Washington42725408
Marion40378520
Clackamas33323391
Lane30531364
Jackson25267363
Deschutes24034198
Umatilla15178184
Linn15004184
Douglas13635295
Josephine10388249
Yamhill9916145
Klamath9144153
Polk8384103
Benton624440
Malheur594093
Coos5854109
Columbia442156
Jefferson427268
Lincoln369155
Crook345558
Union341857
Wasco320747
Clatsop265835
Baker223133
Tillamook220646
Hood River218637
Morrow198925
Curry194639
Harney121933
Grant109216
Lake106418
Wallowa76513
Sherman1953
Gilliam1854
Wheeler1161
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 74953
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Los Angeles153845127262
San Diego4104514351
Riverside3912955388
San Bernardino3784085998
Orange3370455783
Sacramento1699162462
Kern1590231841
Fresno1581872284
Santa Clara1536961933
Alameda1262241514
San Joaquin1084911837
Ventura1049251194
Contra Costa1046451058
Stanislaus923321436
Tulare869791102
San Francisco57458674
San Mateo56861631
Monterey52973626
Solano48014360
Santa Barbara47846555
Merced45506672
Sonoma43609414
Placer42736473
Imperial39148778
Kings35547369
San Luis Obispo31803360
Madera26511315
Shasta26353465
Butte25690320
Santa Cruz22540224
Yolo21792263
Marin18728249
El Dorado18544168
Sutter14691186
Napa13501107
Yuba1084791
Humboldt10360119
Tehama10329133
Nevada10187105
Mendocino873799
Lassen801259
San Benito793980
Tuolumne782691
Lake7073113
Amador583267
Siskiyou480757
Glenn460336
Calaveras449988
Del Norte380442
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Inyo259446
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Mono19274
Mariposa163818
Trinity102117
Modoc7956
Unassigned3820
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