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It could soon be the last straw for Portland’s City Council—at least the last plastic straw. Today City Council approved a resolution that directs the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) to develop a strategy to reduce single-use, non-recyclable plastics and invite feedback from community members, hospitals and care facilities, and businesses that stock and supply straws.
City of Portland is considering the ban as a response to the global plastic litter problem involving single-use, non-recyclable plastics: Plastic straws are one of many items that are littering our land and oceans and impacting wildlife habitat. In fact, plastic straws are the 6th most frequently occurring litter in the United States, according to the 2017 Ocean Conservancy report. Over 663 species, including sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds, are impacted by plastic, either by ingesting or becoming entangled in the plastic debris.
“A lot of people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plastic problem,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “In 2011, Portlanders did an amazing job moving away from plastic bags at the grocery checkout. Giving up plastic straws is another important step in the right direction.”
Plastic does not biodegrade but instead breaks down into smaller pieces that enters the marine food chain. Note: Compostable plastic straws are not a viable alternative either because they do not break down in aquatic environments like our rivers and oceans.
In response to ocean plastics and litter, over 100 municipalities worldwide are banning or charging for plastic bags, and reusable bags are commonplace. Cities around the world such as Vancouver, BC., New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Boulder already have or are in the process of restricting straws and other single-use non-recyclable plastics.
“We’re really proud to see Portland businesses lead on this effort,” said Charlie Plybon, Surfrider Foundation’s Oregon Policy Manager, whose organization has already worked with over 100 businesses in Portland to phase out plastic straws.
BPS staff will incorporate public feedback and elements of lessons learned by other cities into the development of an ordinance. The City is committed to working with the community on a business-first approach, to ensure those impacted by the ordinance have an opportunity to voice concerns.
Consideration will be given to restaurant customers and patients in hospitals and caregiving facilities that need straws to comfortably consume beverages.
Initially, the ordinance will apply to restaurants and other businesses and organizations in Portland that provide straws to customers and employees. How and when a change will occur will be determined in the development of the ordinance.
Visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/reduceplastics to follow the progress of this strategy.