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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Single-Use Plastics Reduction Policy

Purpose of the policy

To reduce plastic litter and to reduce the use of energy and resources, including fossil fuels, needed to make items that are only used once.

What’s changing?

Starting July 1, 2019, businesses in Portland cannot automatically include plastic straws, stirrers, utensils or individually packaged condiments in a customer’s order for dine-in, take-out or delivery. These items can only be provided upon request.

Which items are included?

Plastic straws, stirrers, utensils and individually packaged condiments.

Plastic straws, stirrers, utensils, condiment packets

Utensils include plastic forks, spoons and knives. Condiments include individually packaged servings of ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, hot sauce, coffee creamer, jelly and jam and soy sauce.

What about “compostable” plastics?

This by-request-only policy applies to all plastics, even those labeled “biodegradable,” “compostable” or “made from plants.”

These items cannot be composted in Portland’s compost program. Additionally, research has shown these products can have negative environmental impacts equal to or greater than conventional plastics[1]. They are also unlikely to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean, as it is not clear that they readily break down in a marine environment [2]. Reducing plastics of all types helps reduce litter and negative environmental impacts.

What’s required of businesses?

Dine-in: In dine-in situations, businesses can provide single-use plastic items only after the customer requests them.

Fast food, take-out and delivery: In fast food, take-out and food delivery services can provide single-use plastic items only after an employee asks the customer if they want them and the customer responds affirmatively.

Web or app orders: Food orders placed from a website or app can provide single-use plastic items only after the customer has been prompted in the ordering process and has actively requested them.

Which businesses must comply?

Retail food and beverage establishments including:

  • Full service and fast food restaurants
  • Food carts
  • Bars
  • Coffee/tea shops
  • Grocery stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Hotels and Motels
  • Caterers
  • Food service contractors
  • Educational, medical and governmental institutions who provide food and beverages

Cafeterias are considered “dine-in” and retail food and beverage such as coffee stands and food carts are considered “fast food.”

How businesses benefit

By reducing the quantities of single-use plastic items, businesses can save money through reduced purchasing.

Switching to reusable dishware and cutlery in dine-in situations provides customers with a higher-quality dining experience and reduces purchasing and disposal costs. Customers expect businesses to reduce waste whenever possible. In a recent survey, respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of City action to reduce single-use plastics.

Enforcement and penalties

Businesses found in violation of the policy will receive a written warning from the City of Portland. Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) staff will work with businesses to achieve compliance and will consider unique circumstances when evaluating the level of compliance. If compliance is not reached fines are set at $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second, and $500 for any subsequent violation in the same calendar year.

Policy background

In June 2018, Portland City Council directed BPS to develop a waste reduction strategy that addresses single-use plastics and invite feedback from community members, hospitals/care facilities, and businesses that stock and supply straws. BPS staff began meeting in July 2018 with interested and affected stakeholders.

In December 2018, Portland City Council approved the ordinance in a unanimous vote. 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). This new ordinance is currently scheduled to take effect July 1, 2019.

Read the Ordinance and Exhibit A (which includes definitions and enforcement details). Find more about the policy development and public feedback.

Questions?

References:

[1] Packaging Material Attributes, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality

[2] Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, concerns and impacts on marine environments, United Nations Environment Programme