Bill to phase out polystyrene foam foodware, packing peanuts and coolers, PFAS in food packaging passes Oregon Senate with bipartisan vote
Press Release Date: April 3, 2023
Location: Salem, OR
Jamie Karnik | email: firstname.lastname@example.org | tel: Jamie Karnik
Today, the Oregon Senate passed Senate Bill 543, which would phase out polystyrene foam foodware, packing peanuts and coolers and prohibit the use of PFAS, a toxic “forever chemical,” in food packaging starting January 1, 2025. The vote was 20-9.
“Products that have a ‘forever’ impact on our planet, like polystyrene, which doesn’t biodegrade, and PFAS forever chemicals that build up in our bodies and environment, should be eliminated,” said Senator Janeen Sollman (SD-15). “Senate Bill 543 is an important step in getting us closer to the zero waste future we’re working to build, and I look forward to my colleagues in the House passing this vital legislation.”
Expanded polystyrene is a form of foamed plastic made from fossil fuels and commonly used for food containers and packaging. This disposable packaging is usually thrown away after a single use and breaks up easily into smaller pieces that are hard to clean up, disperse rapidly due to their lightweight nature, and can persist in the environment for centuries. Plastic foam is not accepted in curbside recycling and is one of the top items found polluting Oregon’s beaches.
“Nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute the environment for hundreds of years,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, state director with Environment Oregon. “Thanks to Senator Sollman’s leadership, Oregon is one step closer to joining nine Oregon cities and eight other states that have taken action to reduce wasteful polystyrene foodware and other products, and we look forward to seeing this bill continue to move through the legislature.”
According to recent polling data from Oceana, 88% of Oregon voters support state and local policies to reduce single-use plastics, and 76% specifically support policies that reduce the use of plastic foam foodware, packing peanuts and coolers.
“Plastics are overwhelming our oceans, killing marine life, and devastating ecosystems. The only way to head off this crisis is to start reducing the amount of plastic we create, use and throw away, and to start doing that as quickly as possible,” said Tara Brock, Oceana’s Pacific Counsel based in Portland. “Senate Bill 543 is a practical step in tackling the plastic pollution problem here in Oregon, and we applaud the leadership of the Senators who listened to the voices of Oregonians and voted to move the bill forward today.”
“Polystyrene foam is the number one item we find on Oregon’s beaches and throughout the environment with our Surfrider cleanup programs,” said Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Director with Surfrider Foundation. “It’s extremely challenging to remove as it breaks down into millions of smaller pieces, is mistaken as food by wildlife and presents itself as a toxic threat in our ocean food chains.”
“This bill is a chance for Oregon to eliminate one of the most prevalent and insidious single-use plastics polluting beaches and waterways here in Oregon and around the world,” said Dr. Anja Brandon, Associate Director of U.S. Plastics Policy at Ocean Conservancy. “Lightweight foam foodware, prolific in our environment, is particularly damaging given how easily it breaks up into microplastics. Foam is also not recyclable, meaning the best-case for these products is a landfill – keeping us hooked on extractive fossil fuels to make more and more of it. We’re pleased to see the Oregon Senate taking action on this common pollutant.”
“In recent years, our staff have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in Oregon about the need to move beyond polystyrene foam and the overwhelming response was ‘It’s about time!’,” said Charlie Fisher, state director with OSPIRG. “Senate Bill 543 would move Oregon further towards a world where we reduce and reuse instead of use once and throwaway, and we’re happy to see it pass the Oregon Senate today.”
Unlike the bill that was introduced in 2019 and again in 2021, Senate Bill 543 also includes a phase out of PFAS in food packaging. PFAS are a class of highly fluorinated toxic chemicals used in many food containers and packaging due to their oil-, stain- and water- repellent properties. PFAS are “forever chemicals” that accumulate in the environment and human bodies and are linked to cancer, high cholesterol, reproductive and thyroid problems, and immune suppression.
“Not only is styrene toxic for human and environmental health, but so is PFAS in foodware,” said Jamie Pang, Environmental Health Program Director at the Oregon Environmental Council. “PFAS has been found in the blood of nearly every American, including newborn babies. Phasing out PFAS in foodware can eliminate a significant source of exposure to cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals that pollute our bodies and waterways.”
The bill now heads to the Oregon House for consideration.