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Portland joins countries and cities around the world to cut down the distribution of single-use plastic

News Article
Portland restaurants can only provide single-use plastic items by request, not by default.

Half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once. Let that sink in.

“These non-recyclable single-use plastic items are piling up in garbage cans, on Portland’s streets and in our waterways,” said City of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “We’ve heard from the Portland community and thank the restaurants who have already taken action over the past year to stop automatically offering single-use plastic items. By working together, we can reduce waste and keep Portland beautiful.”  

Last summer, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability worked with local stakeholders on a waste reduction policy to address single-use plastics. The result: As of Oct. 1, 2019, businesses in Portland cannot 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. 

“Last week our bureau released a new climate data report. We are committed to working with Portlanders to set priorities for climate action, and waste reduction plays a role in that,” said Andrea Durbin, director, City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. “This new policy will reduce plastic litter and the demand for energy and resources, including fossil fuels, needed to make single-use items.” 

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. 

Community helped to draft an inclusive “by-request” policy instead of a complete ban

In summer 2018, local restaurants, wholesalers, a medical facility, American Disability Act (ADA) advocates, and environmental advocates considered plastics reduction at a series of meetings. Partners from Multnomah County, Prosper Portland and the City of Portland Bureau of Equity and Human Rights were also at the table. 

“Participating in the City’s single-use disposables policy is a given for Burgerville,” said Hillary Barbour, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Burgerville. “We were early adopters of innovative packaging, recycling waste oil into biodiesel, and offsetting 100% of our energy use with green power. Implementing this initiative at all 41 Burgerville locations throughout Oregon and Washington brings us closer to our vision for the Pacific Northwest to be the healthiest region on the planet.”

BPS then worked with Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office to research the policies of other cities, conduct a series of workgroup meetings, analyze community feedback and land on a more inclusive “by-request” policy recommendation. Since some customers would find it difficult or impossible to drink without a plastic straw, the “by-request” approach respects the disability community’s needs while achieving waste reduction. 

Portland food retailers were notified twice over the summer

The City of Portland sent affected businesses notification letters in June and September 2019. 
See the September notification, which included a sign for customers, in English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, and Korean:

For more details, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/reduceplastic