Today, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, State Representative Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro) and other Oregonians held a virtual rally to celebrate "Rise Above Plastic Pollution Day" in Oregon. The event highlighted several efforts underway to stem the tide of plastic pollution in Oregon, from a research lab at Oregon State University to innovative business startups, from the halls of Salem to the halls of the U.S. Capitol. The message was clear: Oregon can and should be a national leader in preventing plastic pollution.
“Nobody wants their children ingesting dangerous chemicals and microscopic plastics,” said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. “Nobody wants to go to the beach and see mountains of single-use plastic waste. And plastic production is a major driver of pollution accelerating the climate crisis. An America with the creativity to invent a million uses for plastic has the creativity to design better alternatives. Our kids' health and futures depend on America solving this problem.”
An estimated 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the marine environment each year, devastating the world’s oceans. Much of this plastic waste comes from single-use plastics—packaging, food containers, or disposable foodware and other items that are typically used and discarded putting an immense burden on local governments to handle the waste. Once in the environment, most plastic does not go away, instead breaking up into smaller pieces that become nearly impossible to remove.
"I stand in support of Rise Above Plastics because the consumption of plastic and the amount we produce, has us facing deeper impacts to our environment, economy and health," said Oregon State Representative Janeen Sollman. "Plastics are already in our water, our soil, our air, and in our food chain, which ends up in our bodies. The time to reduce plastic waste was yesterday, we have no time to spare."
There are several bills under consideration in Salem that would address plastic pollution, including House Bill 2617 that would phase out polystyrene food serviceware and cups, House Bill 2365 that would shift Oregon to reusable food serviceware for on site dining, and Senate Bill 582-1 that would establish producer responsibility for packaging. None of House Bills that address plastics have been scheduled for a hearing.
“Plastic pollution is one of the greatest environmental catastrophes of our time,” says Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager with Surfrider Foundation. “Plastics are the leading form of pollution in marine litter worldwide, they do not biodegrade in our lifetime and persist in our ocean and environment, absorbing toxins and entering the food chain through fish, seabirds and other marine life. As a state with an ethos in stewarding our public beaches and ocean environments, Oregon should be leading the way in curbing plastic pollution at its source.”
"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. "Oregon has a proud history of environmental stewardship. We can and should be a national leader in preventing plastic pollution, and we can't afford to wait."
“Our oceans are choking on plastics,” said Tara Brock, Pacific Counsel for Oceana. “Oregon is not immune to these impacts. Plastics have been found in Pacific oysters and rockfish off our coast, and in water samples from the Columbia, Willamette, Rogue, and Deschutes Rivers. And it’s only going to get worse as plastic production is expected to quadruple by 2050. We have an opportunity here in Oregon to turn the tide on harmful, toxic and unnecessary plastic consumption. It's long past time we acted.”
“Plastic food service ware and packaging are by far the most prevalent forms of plastic pollution that we see on beaches and waterways around the world during Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup,” said Nick Mallos, senior director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program. “Polystyrene is particularly insidious as it is effectively unrecyclable and quickly breaks up into tiny pieces in the environment, where it persists indefinitely. We are thrilled that Oregon lawmakers are proposing legislation to target these items, as well as extended producer responsibility measures to make sure those responsible for putting these items on the market do their part to keep them out of the ocean.”