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 chapters goal to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment.

In August 2017, the Portland Chapter of Surfrider launched the #DitchTheStrawPDX program in the Portland-Metro area to assist businesses and individuals in reducing plastic straw usage in the city. Since then, the Portland Chapter volunteers have worked with more than 120 local businesses in transitioning single-use plastic straws out of our waste stream, off our streets, and out of our watersheds.

Today, the Portland City Council unanimously passed a plastic reduction policy that goes beyond straws to make measurable reductions in the amount of single-use plastics used in the city. During their vote, the Councilors and Mayor recognized Surfrider’s contribution to the development of the policy.

The ordinance passed today is an updated version of the first read through we broke down in our post a few weeks ago. It 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.

“#DitchTheStrawPDX has grown immensely over the past year and Surfrider Portland is proud to have been the catalyst in bringing together business leaders, individual volunteers, and local government to drive a grassroots effort to reduce single-use plastics across the Portland Metro region.” Nancy Nordman, #DitchTheStrawPDX Coordinator

Scaling up the reductions we’ve seen with 120 businesses to the City’s 6,000 food service businesses, this ordinance could prevent millions of plastics straws from entering the waste stream.

The Portland Chapter looks forward to continuing our work with businesses and the city to support implementation of this policy and make a measurable impact on reducing plastic pollution and waste in Portland.