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Community conversations about single-use plastics support new policy

Portland City Council cuts backon single-use plastic serviceware while Portlanders who rely on items for healthcare situations can still obtain what they need.


December 5, 2018


Eileen Park
Office of Mayor Ted Wheeler

Christine Llobregat
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability 

Portland City Council passes ordinance to cut back on single-use plastic serviceware while Portlanders who rely on items for healthcare situations can still obtain what they need.

After a second reading and unanimous vote, Portland City Council passed a new ordinance to reduce the automatic distribution of single-use plastics in Portland. Since Portland already has bans in place for Styrofoam and plastic grocery bags, the new ordinance repeals the existing code for Single-use Plastic Checkout Bags and Polystyrene Foam Food Containers and replaces it with Code Prohibitions and Restrictions on Single-use Plastic (Ordinance; replace Code Chapter 17.103; repeal Code Sections 17.102.300-340). 

Besides overwhelming our landfills, plastic straws and other single-use disposables affect the health of humans and animal communities. Over 660 species, including sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds, are impacted and in many cases die from ingesting or becoming entangled in the plastic debris. A lot of people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plastic problem. This is a small but important step in the right direction.
– Mayor, Ted Wheeler

The City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) worked with the Mayor’s office to research the policies of other cities, conduct a series of workgroup meetings, analyze community feedback and land on a policy recommendation: Restrictions on plastic serviceware including; straws, stirrers, utensils and condiment packaging.

“This ordinance will multiply the impact we’ve seen with our grassroots #DitchTheStrawPDX program, preventing millions of single-use items from entering the waste-stream, said Nancy Nordman, Ditch the Straw coordinator of the Portland chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with businesses and the city to implement this policy, ultimately making a measurable reduction in waste and stopping plastic pollution at its source.”

The ordinance will include the restrictions on plastic serviceware (defined as straws, stirrers, utensils and condiment packaging) for the following situations, when applicable to the food and beverage order:

  • By request policy: In dine-in situations, plastic serviceware will be only available by request of the customer.
  • Ask first policy: In fast food, take-out and delivery situations, plastic serviceware will only be provided after the customer has been asked and confirms they want the plastic serviceware.

Notification and outreach to businesses will begin in January 2019 and the ordinance will go into effect on July 1,2019.

Community feedback guided policy development

The work group, consisting of restaurants, wholesalers, a medical facility, American Disability Act (ADA) straw users, and environmental advocates, contributed their time to discussing plastics reduction at a series of meetings, along with partners from Multnomah County, Prosper Portland and the City of Portland Bureau of Equity and Human Rights.

“The Mayor and taskforce embraced the need to create an inclusive policy that balanced the needs of both people living with disabilities and the environment,” said Nickole Cheron, ADA title II and disability equity manager, City of Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights. “We must continue to always ask ourselves who is the most impacted by our decisions and make sure we bring them to the table to insure an equitable path forward.”

“The Portland restaurant community appreciates the city keeping the ordinance “by-request”, respecting the need for single-use plastics for our customers, especially those in the disabled community," said Greg Astley, government affairs director, Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. "Portland restaurants recognize the need to reduce plastics in the waste stream balanced with the needs of our guests.”

Survey and public feedback results

A public survey focused on City action to reduce single-use plastics. Over 4000 responses resulted from the survey and were overwhelmingly supportive of City action to reduce single-use plastics.

The results of stakeholder engagement and the survey highlighted these focus areas. 

  • The community sees the need for government intervention.
  • Waste prevention (not using) is the highest and best available alternative to single-use plastics.
  • Plastic straws are a crucial tool for people with disabilities and those recovering from injury or illness and therefore should be restricted, but not banned.
  • Alternatives for reuse and single-use plastic were not specified due to variabilities in environmental impact. Switching to paper may reduce marine impact but result in cutting down more trees and higher carbon emissions. 
  • Human health impacts from single-use plastics, including toxicity need to be considered. 

Visit for more information.

Johnson Creek and Outer Southeast Portland: Updated Environmental Overlay Zone Map ready for review

Second draft map of corrected ezones for the Johnson Creek watershed and outer Southeast Portland are ready for community/neighborhood review.

Ezones are a tool that City planners use to protect Portland’s important natural resources — like streams, floodplains, wetlands, forests and steep slopes. These natural resources are woven throughout all of Portland in neighborhoods, commercial districts and industrial areas. The resources are home to fish and wildlife, are places where people go to recreate and relax, and provide important functions like reducing air temperature, improving air quality, managing stormwater and flooding and reducing risks of landslides.

Getting it right

Last summer, staff shared the first draft of corrected ezones for the Johnson Creek Watershed and the outer east areas of Portland south of I-84. Planners discussed the updates with residents at six neighborhood meetings, conducted more than three dozen site visits and held two drop-in hours.

Based on their analysis and public input, staff refined the location of ezones for the Johnson Creek area and its tributaries, as well as southeast buttes, including Mt Tabor and Kelly Butte.

The second draft of the ezone maps are available on the Ezone Review Map.

Many property owners that received a site visit should be able to see changes to the draft ezones on their properties.

Postcards in the mail

The second draft also includes some new properties. After revising the mapping protocols to better reflect previously adopted plans, 45 new properties were included in the ezones.

If your property is proposed for remapping, a postcard is in the mail. Please use the Ezone Review Map to see the corrected ezone boundaries.

How do I use the map?

Request a site visit

If you currently have an ezone on your property or you think you are getting one through this project, you can request a free site visit from BPS staff. Staff use site visits to verify data on the location of natural resources and correct errors in our draft ezone maps.

If you would like to request a site visit, or if you have any questions or concerns about the ezone mapping on your site, please:

Staff can provide more detailed ezone and natural resource maps for individual sites by request.

For more information

Visit the website:
Call: 503-823-4225

Portland’s Buttes and Terraces in NE Portland Reviewed for Environmental Protections

Residents living near Rocky Butte, Sullivan’s Gulch, Pier Park, Mocks Crest, Waud Bluff or other northeastern buttes and terraces are invited to review draft remapped environmental overlay zones and attend neighborhood meetings in December and January.

map showing an example ezone

The City of Portland has been protecting streams, wetlands, forests, steep slopes, wildlife habitat and floodplains for more than 30 years. But since 1989, streams have shifted their course, new development has occurred, and technology has improved so much that we can more accurately identify the important resources that need protecting.

So, we’re “rematching” the environmental overlay zones, or ezones, to the actual location of natural resource features on the ground.

What’s an ezone? It’s a tool that the City of Portland uses to protect important natural resources, like streams, wetlands and forests.

How will this affect you?

We expect the overlay zones will only change slightly on most properties. But some properties will receive expanded ezones; others may have reduced ezones. 

You can use the Ezone Review Map to look up your property and determine what kinds of environmental protections apply. You can also request a site visit through the Ezone Review Map and staff will come to your property to review the data.

How do I use the Ezone Review Map?

Postcards in the mail

If you own a property near Rocky Butte, Sullivan’s Gulch, Pier Park, Mocks Crest, Waud Bluff or other buttes and terraces in Northeast Portland and you have existing ezones on your property or the ezones are proposed to change, you will receive a postcard in the mail.

Learn more

The public is invited to attend neighborhood meetings in January to learn about the Environmental Overlay Zone (Ezone) Map Correction Project.

  • Roseway Neighborhood Association – January 8, 7 p.m.
  • St. Johns Neighborhood Association – January 14, 7 p.m.
  • Overlook Neighborhood Association – January 15, 6:30 p.m.

Please visit the project Calendar for more details 

At the meetings, BPS staff will explain the Ezone Map Correction Project and demonstrate how to use the online mapping tool, which allows people to look up their own property.

Request a site visit

Staff will be conducting site visits in this area now through spring 2019. To request a site visit, please visit the Ezone Review Map to look up your property; then click “request a site visit.”

Map schedule of projects by area


For more information

Phone: 503-823-4225

Beyond the Curb: The journey of a glass bottle

Here’s the journey a glass beer bottle takes when you recycle it.

When you put your recycling out for curbside pickup, you’re connecting valuable materials to markets where they can be remade into new products. You’re also helping reduce Portland’s waste and saving energy and resources.

We get lots of questions about where recycling goes after it’s picked up. Let’s look at a glass bottle and its lifecycle. There are two ways you can recycle glass — in your yellow recycling bin, or if it has a deposit, you can take it to some grocery stores or a BottleDrop Center to get a 10-cent deposit back.

The journey of a glass bottleRecycling is good, but reuse is best!

Oregon’s Bottle Bill provides for a 10-cent return value on most beverage containers and it’s been tremendously successful at reducing waste, litter, and energy and resource use. Recently, Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative launched a refillable glass bottle program with seven statewide breweries. Bottles can be refilled 25 times before the glass needs to be melted down and recycled.

Reusing materials is even more efficient than recycling.

Let’s raise a glass to Oregon brewers and refillable bottles!

Cheers to reuse!

Growlers are another way to reuse – and they have expanded from just beer to kombucha and wine too. Most grocery stores offer growler fills, along with brew pubs and liquor stores.

Recycle with confidence: Learn how to sort your plastics

Portland doesn’t sort plastics by the numbers on the bottom – learn shapes and sizes instead!

Choose the following plastic items for your home recycling:

  • Plastic bottles with a neck (6 ounces or larger)
  • Plastic tubs (6 ounces or larger)
  • Plant pots (4 inches or larger)
  • Buckets (5 gallons or smaller)

Before you throw them in the recycling containers, rinse them out and toss the lids into the garbage.

Sorting your plastics is easy with this guide.


Sometimes it’s because the items are too small (think lids), making them too hard to sort out from paper, cardboard and other recyclables.

Other times it’s because the global market for a plastic change too frequently (to-go containers, for example). Recycling only works if it makes financial sense for companies to buy the used plastics to turn into new plastics.

What about the numbers on the bottom of plastics?

Ignore the numbers. The numbers on the bottom of plastics refers to the materials they are made from and play no role in what is recyclable in Portland.

Just think size and shape. The allowed plastics – bottles, tubs, buckets and jugs – are the right shapes to get successfully sorted, and they’re the types of plastic that recycling companies want to buy.

Is there any way to recycle these extra plastics?

Yes, for some items. Plastics bags and wrappers can go back to grocery stores. Block Styrofoam can go to Agilyx, a company that has a drop off center.

Ask Metro about items not accepted with your home recycling by calling 503-234-3000 or online at Find a Recycler.

What about plastics labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable?”

Never put plastics labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” into any recycling container. These “plastics” are made to break down quickly and will contaminate the plastics recycling process and reduce the quality of goods produced from the recycled materials.

Check out Metro’s story and video about recycling and turning what you toss into something new.