Valentine’s Day is typically a day for expressing love and affection to romantic partners. However, it can also be a reminder of toxic relationships: like the one we have with plastics. This Valentine’s Day, environmental groups are calling on the state Legislature to “break up with plastic” by passing three Sen. Janeen Sollman-sponsored bills – Senate Bill 543, Senate Bill 544 and Senate Bill 545. The three bills, which all had public hearings Tuesday afternoon, aim to address the plastic waste crisis in various ways.
“I am leading the charge in getting Oregon to break up with plastic because the consumption of plastic and the amount we produce, has us facing deeper impacts to our environment, economy and health,” said Oregon State Sen. Janeen Sollman. “Microplastics are already in our water, our soil, our air, and in our food chain, which ends up in our bodies. The time to reduce plastic waste was yesterday, we have no time to spare.”
An estimated 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the marine environment each year, devastating the world’s oceans. Much of this plastic waste comes from single-use plastics—packaging, food containers, or disposable foodware and other items that are typically used and discarded putting an immense burden on local governments to handle the waste. Once in the environment, most plastic does not go away, instead breaking up into smaller pieces that become nearly impossible to remove.
There are several bills under consideration in Salem that would address plastic pollution, including: Senate Bill 543 that would phase out polystyrene food serviceware, packing peanuts and coolers; Senate Bill 544 that would require producers of wasteful single-use plastic packaging and foodware reduce their use of plastic by 25% over the next decade; and Senate Bill 545 that would update the Oregon Health Code to make it easier for Oregon businesses and consumers shift to reusable and refillable containers.
“Nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute the environment for hundreds of years,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, state director with Environment Oregon. “Oregon has a proud history of environmental stewardship, and we can and should be a national leader in preventing plastic pollution. It’s time for us to break up with plastic.”