Campaign | Oceana USA

Plastic Pollution

Tackling the plastics crisis at the source


May 2021

Washington State Bans Polystyrene Foam, Limits Ocean-Polluting Single-Use Plastic at Restaurants

U.S. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that limits the use of unnecessary single-use plastic across the state, following campaigning by Oceana and our allies in the Pacific Northwest. The new law bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of certain expanded polystyrene foam products, including foodware, packing peanuts, and foam coolers. It also requires dining establishments to only provide single-use plastic utensils, straws, cold-beverage cup lids, and condiment packaging if requested by customers. Finally, the law establishes post-consumer recycled-content standards for plastic beverage bottles, personal care products, home cleaning products, and trash bags. Many of the items this law limits or bans are unlikely to be recycled and often make their way into our oceans, where they can harm marine life and ecosystems. Washington is now the first state on the West Coast and the seventh in the country to ban polystyrene foam food containers, as well as the first state to ban foam plastic coolers.

May 2021

Maryland Protects Marine Life from Choking on Balloons

Following campaigning by Oceana and coalition partners, Maryland enacted a new law prohibiting intentional balloon releases statewide. Balloons released into the air can eventually enter the oceans where they can harm and choke marine life. Under the new law, a person who is at least 13 years old, or an organization, cannot intentionally release balloons or organize balloon releases. Reducing single-use plastics, including balloons, is critical to the health of Maryland’s coasts and waterways and the 96,000 jobs in Maryland that depend on a clean coast. Oceana continues to campaign to stop plastic pollution by urging other local, state, and federal decisionmakers to pass policies that reduce the production and use of single-use plastics.

March 2021

Virginia Protects Oceans from Polystyrene Foam and Balloon Pollution

U.S. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed two bills into law to reduce plastic pollution across the state. The laws prohibit the use of polystyrene foam for food service containers, including takeout boxes and cups, and ban the intentional release of balloons into the environment. Both polystyrene foam and balloons contribute to the 33 billion pounds of plastic entering our oceans every year. A 2021 report by Virginia Clean Waterways found that balloons are among the deadliest and most common types of marine debris found on Virginia’s beaches. The governor’s action follows campaigning by Oceana and allies to stop plastic pollution at the source by urging government decisionmakers to pass policies that reduce the production and use of single-use plastics.

April 2020

New York bans plastic foam food containers and packaging

New York state banned “styrofoam” plastic foam food and beverage containers in restaurants, grocery stores, and other venues and the use of plastic foam peanuts for packaging. Oceana and allies worked to pass this ban, which will take effect January 1, 2022. Materials made of expanded polystyrene foam are a pervasive category of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Once in the ocean, polystyrene and other polluting plastics never disappear, but simply break down into smaller microplastics, threatening marine life and food webs. Oceana is calling for the use of plastic-free choices in place of plastics such as polystyrene foam.

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