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Oregon bills would ban polystyrene containers and plastic bags, make straw use on-demand

Polystyrene containers are already banned in at least six Oregon cities, some 14 cities ban single-use straws, and 16 ban single-use plastic grocery bags.

SALEM, Ore. — Three environmental bills that would expand statewide what some cities in Oregon already practice are moving forward through the legislative process.

Senate Bill 90 puts the decision on the consumer who wants a single-use straw in a restaurant. A restaurant employee would not be allowed to automatically provide one. A public hearing has taken place and a work session was planned for Thursday.

House Bill 2883 prohibits a food vendor from using polystyrene, often referred to as the trademarked Styrofoam, from "selling, offering for sale, serving or dispensing prepared food to the public." Two public hearings have been held on that bill.

"As a 5th-generation Oregonian, who grew up enjoying the great natural wonders of our state, I am very invested in ensuring that future generations have access to the same clean water and environment that I did," Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro told KGW.

House Bill 2509 which McLain heartily supports "bans single-use checkout bags except in certain cases." A hearing has been held but no work sessions have been scheduled. Plastic bags could still be used for chilled meat or seafood, or items that include confidential information. 

More: Washington Senate passes bill to ban plastic bags

Polystyrene containers are already banned in Portland, Milwaukie, Silverton, Florence, Ashland and Medford. At least 14 cities ban single-use straws. Some 16 cities ban single-use plastic grocery bags.

Most of those who provided testimony at the public hearing on plastics bags were in favor of the bill.

"Plastic bags start out as fossil fuels and end up as deadly waste in landfills and the ocean," Paige Spence of the Oregon League of Conservation Voter told lawmakers.

Vinod Singh, of Far West Recycling, said homeowners put plastic bags into their waste, what he calls "wishful recycling" that literally brings massive sorting machines to a grinding halt.

On the other side, corporate lobbying group Oregon Business & Industry said House Bill 2509 should exempt garment and dry-cleaning bags. A new state law should supersede current city ordinances, the group said.

The American Forest & Paper Association raised concerns about a 10-cent tax on "disposable bags" and wants an amendment that exempts paper bags from the tax.

The opposition to the plastic straw and polystyrene bills came from a chemical industry lobbyist.

American Chemistry Council lobbyist Lindsay Stovall testified that polystyrene can be recycled and overall leaves a light environmental footprint. She questioned whether the bill would "result in replacing one type of trash for another." 

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