Oregon Passes Single-Use Plastic Straw Law

Oregon will soon follow California in becoming the second US state to enact restrictions on single use plastic straws. The measure was passed by the Oregon House of Representatives on May 29th, 2019, with a winning margin of 48-12. The new law will ban restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws unless customers request one, similar to California’s law. Restaurants can still provide customers with paper straws, however.

Drive-thru restaurants and pharmacies will still be allowed to offer straws, however. Addressing reporters, Oregon governor Kate Brown voiced her support for the new ban, citing a need to raise public awareness of the effects single-use plastics have on the environment, and encourage people to make sustainable changes to their lifestyles. 

These new restrictions on single-use plastic straws are the start of Oregon’s fight to reduce plastic waste.

Paper straws are a far safer option for protecting marine animals

On the floor of the Oregon House, lawmakers discussed a widely viewed YouTube video from 2015, which shows scientists removing a plastic straw lodged in a sea turtle’s nostril. Republican lawmakers in the House however opposed the measure, arguing that there was no evidence that proved plastic straws used by Oregon residents were harming birds and sea turtles, and that the ban would simply introduce more bureaucracy. Other Oregon House Republicans did not oppose the ban, however, arguing that it does not outright prohibit customers from requesting plastic straws. They also supported a clause in the legislation that prevents cities such as Portland from passing plastic straw bans that go further than the new state law. 

A number of environmentalists however did not support these two exceptions to the new plastic straw law. As a result, some groups withdrew their support for the bill. These new restrictions on single-use plastic straws are the start of Oregon’s fight to reduce plastic waste. In the weeks following the plastic straw bill, the State Senate passed a new ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, with a 5-cent fee on reusable plastic and paper bags. 

While they may seem small in impact at first, plastic straw bans can encourage people to make more sustainable adjustments to their lives.

Oregon’s new partial ban on plastic straws comes at a pivotal time in the fight for sustainability. The World Economic Forum has projected that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in Earth’s oceans than fish. Laws such as California’s and now Oregon’s can serve to make residents more cognizant of using any plastic item only once, and then throwing it away without thought. For businesses serving single-use foodware, paper straws, paper plates and paper takeout containers are a far more sustainable alternative to their plastic counterparts.

While they may seem small in impact at first, plastic straw bans can encourage people to make more sustainable adjustments to their lives. When more people take small steps like switching from single-use plastic straws to eco-friendly alternatives like paper straws, they can make bigger changes to their lifestyles that will lead to a healthier planet. 

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