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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Single-Use Plastics Policy FAQs

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What is the policy?

As of October 1, 2019, businesses in Portland cannot automatically include plastic straws, stirrers, utensils or individually packaged condiments in a customer’s order for dine-in, drive-through, take-out or delivery.

These items can only be provided upon customer request.

images of plastic items

Which businesses does this apply to?

All retail food and beverage establishments are required to comply, including sit-down and fast food restaurants, food carts, bars, coffee and tea shops, grocery stores, convenience stores, hotels and motels, caterers and food service contractors.

This includes educational, medical and governmental institutions that provide food and beverages.

The only exception is for meals provided as part of a social service to vulnerable populations, including free or reduced-price meals provided by school systems, homeless shelters and programs that deliver meals to the elderly.

Which items are included?

Plastic straws and stirrers. Plastic utensils, including forks, spoons, sporks and knives.

Plastic-packaged condiments*, including individually packaged servings of ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, hot sauce, coffee creamer, jelly and jam and soy sauce.

*The only exception is salad dressing or other condiments that are considered a key ingredient in the menu item. If the condiment is listed as an ingredient, an individually packaged single serving may be included with the item.

Plastic lids are not covered by this policy.

What about “compostable” plastics?

There is no exception for plastic items labeled “compostable,” “biodegradable” or “made from plants.” These items cannot be composted in Portland. Additionally, they can have negative environmental impacts equal to or greater than conventional plastics [1] and are unlikely to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean [2].

Access to straws for people with disabilities

Some people with disabilities find it difficult or impossible to drink without a straw, and plastic straws meet their needs better than paper or metal straws. Even if you would like to eliminate plastic straws entirely, we recommend you keep a small supply to provide when requested.

What your business needs to do

Table service: You can only provide plastic straws, stirrers, utensils or individually packaged condiments if a customer requests them. 

Counter service: Dine-in or take-out

In situations where customers order their food at a counter, food cart, or cafeteria line, you cannot automatically include plastic straws, stirrers, utensils or condiment packets with a customer’s order.

Plastic straws, stirrers or condiment packets must be kept behind the counter. If a customer is ordering food “to stay,” employees should only provide items if a customer requests them. If the customer is ordering “to go,” employees may ask a customer if they need any of the items.

You may put plastic utensils – including forks, spoons and knives – in a customer self-serve area.

Grab and Go: Convenience stores, grocery stores, delis and other cases where customers get their own food or beverage and then pay a cashier.

You may put plastic utensils – including forks, spoons and knives – in a customer self-serve area. However, plastic straws, stirrers and individually-packaged condiments* must be kept behind the counter. (You may ask customers if they need these items.)

*Switching from individually packaged condiments to bulk dispensers reduces packaging waste and makes it easier for customers to serve themselves the amount they want.

Drive-through, take-out and delivery: You cannot automatically include plastic straws, stirrers, utensils or condiment packets with a customer’s order, but you may ask customers if they need any of these items.

Online orders and delivery apps: You cannot automatically include plastic straws, stirrers, utensils or condiment packets with a customer’s order.

If you want to provide these items, you must add a question in the ordering process asking customers if they need plastic items (utensils, straws or stirrers, or condiment packets) and provide only the items the customer requests.

Note: Your business is responsible for following this policy, even if the customer orders through a third-party app. If a customer is given these plastic items without being asked, your business could be fined.

Penalties

Starting October 1, 2019, businesses found in violation of the policy will receive a written warning from the City of Portland. Staff from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) 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.

More about the 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.

How the policy was developed: Read the policy documents to find out more about policy development and public feedback.

How businesses were notified: The City of Portland sent food-related businesses notification letters in June and September 2019. See the September notification, which included a sign for customers, in EnglishChineseSpanishVietnameseRussian, and Korean

State of Oregon “straw bill:” In May, 2019, the State of Oregon passed Senate Bill 90 which restricts straws to “by request” only. The State bill does not preempt Portland’s policy. Businesses within Portland’s city limits must comply with Portland’s policy, which covers not only straws, but also stirrers, utensils and individually packaged condiments.

How businesses benefit: Businesses can save money by reducing the quantities of single-use items provided to customers. Customers also want less disposable plastic. In a recent survey, respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of City action to reduce single-use plastics. Businesses who switch to reusable dishware and cutlery in dine-in situations also provide customers with a higher-quality dining experience.

Questions?

Call 503-823-7202 or email wasteinfo@portlandoregon.gov


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