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12 • 05 • 2018


The Portland Chapter is working towards a measurable reduction of single use plastic straw usage in the City of Portland.

During the past 10 years, a minimum of 403,000 straws and stirrers have been removed from global beaches during the International Coastal Cleanup. That's more than 4 million straws and stirrers removed during one annual global beach cleanup event.

Plastic straws are among the most common items found at Portland Chapter Surfrider cleanups – both on the Oregon coast and in Portland! They are not biodegradable, which means that every plastic straw created is still around in some form. Plastic has a huge impact on our ecosystems, wildlife and people, and it’s our chapter’s goal to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment.

In August 2017, the Portland Chapter launched the DitchTheStrawPDX campaign in the Portland-Metro area. The mission of the campaign is to assist businesses and individuals in reducing plastic straw usage in the city, while working towards a citywide ordinance dealing with single-use plsatic straws. The Chapter provides support to businesses who agree to go plastic straw free for an entire month as a pilot program or longer, helping them with outreach to their staff and customers on why putting a straw on request policy into action is both effective and feasible. Additionally, they provide support for reusable and paper straw alternatives for instances in which straws are necessary.

On Wednesday, June 20, 2018, Portland City Council passed a resolution directing the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to develop a strategy to reduce single-use, nonrecyclable plastics, including straws. The resolution specifically requires the strategy to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Council invited testimony from the Director of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Surfrider Foundation, Burgerville, Widmer Brothers Brewing, and St. Jack. All of the businesses provided testimony in support of the resolution. The Councilors and Mayor encouraged the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to think beyond straws when crafting the plastic reduction strategy. Mayor Wheeler closed his comments by imploring City Staff to come back with something edgy and aggressive. 

VICTORY!: On December 5, 2018, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance addressing single-use plastics in the city. The ordinance requires that plastic serviceware (including straws, stirrers, utensils, and condiments) be only offered by-request in dine-in situations. It also puts into place an ask-first policy for plastic serviceware in take-out and delivery situations, including fast food. This allows for customers to have these items, but also prompts them to consider if they need them in cases where they may be returning to an office or home where they have durable alternatives. These rules will take effect July 1, 2019 after further outreach by the City starting in January 2019.

(Left to right) Sarah Meyer, Portland Chapter Secretary; Chanel Hason, Portland Chapter Chair; Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler; Bri Goodwin, Surfrider's Oregon Field Manager; Nancy Nordman, Portland Chapter's Ditch the Straw Coordinator