Three bills being considered in the Oregon legislature would ban styrofoam containers and plastic grocery-type bags and prohibit restaurants from distributing plastic straws except when requested by a customer.

At least a half-dozen cities in Oregon already ban styrofoam “to-go” boxes, 14 prohibit the distribution of single-use plastic straws unless requested and 16 ban plastic grocery bags.

A similar proposal garnered lukewarm response from the Gold Beach City Council last month when resident Amy Timeus suggested an ordinance charging customers for plastic grocery-type bags to discourage their use.

The three bills being debated in Salem, however, would affect the entire state.

The first, Senate Bill 90, would put the onus on a customer to request a plastic straw from a food establishment. It would require the state Department of Agriculture to enforce the law in the course of inspecting restaurants. If an eatery is found to be in violation, they could be fined no more than $25 a day for each day they’re found to be in violation, with a cap of $300 for the year. That bill was last discussed Feb. 28 in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

House Bill 2883 would prohibit food vendors from selling or serving food in Styrofoam containers. If passed, it would go into effect next year and businesses found to be in violation could be fined $250 a day, although using the containers for raw meat, fish and eggs could be exempt.

A lobbyist from the American Chemistry Council argued that polystyrene can be recycled and “leaves a light environmental footprint,” a claim many other scientists dispute.

House Bill 2509 would ban single-use checkout bags, with certain exceptions.

Most of those who testified in a hearing earlier this month said they favored a ban on plastic bags, citing their propensity to end up in landfills, the ocean or the stomachs of animals that mistake them for food.

Lobbyist Oregon Business & Industry, however, said HB 2509 should exempt dry-cleaning and similar clothing bags, and the American Forest & Paper Association were concerned about the proposed 10-cent fee for disposable bags and wants paper bags exempted.

It, too, was last heard in the Committee for Energy and Environment.

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