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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Single-Use Plastics Reduction Policy FAQs

Purpose of the policy

To reduce plastic litter and to reduce the use of energy and resources, including fossil fuels, needed to make items that are only used once.

What’s changing?

Starting October 1, 2019, businesses in Portland cannot automatically include plastic straws, stirrers, utensils or individually packaged condiments in a customer’s order for dine-in, drive-thru, take-out or delivery. These items can only be provided upon request.

Read the June 2019 notification letter sent to food-related businesses in Portland: English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, and Korean.

Which items are included?

Plastic straws, stirrers, utensils and individually packaged condiments.

images of plastic items

Utensils include plastic forks, spoons and knives. Condiments include individually packaged servings of ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, hot sauce, coffee creamer, jelly and jam and soy sauce.

What about “compostable” plastics?

This by-request-only policy applies to all plastics, even those labeled “biodegradable,” “compostable” or “made from plants.”

These items cannot be composted in Portland’s compost program. Additionally, research has shown these products can have negative environmental impacts equal to or greater than conventional plastics [1]. They are also unlikely to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean, as it is not clear that they readily break down in a marine environment [2].

Reducing plastics of all types helps reduce litter and negative environmental impacts.

What’s required of businesses?

Dine-in: Plastic single-use items can only be provided after the customer requests them. 

Fast food, take-out and delivery: Plastic single-use items can only be provided if the customer requests them. It's also acceptable for the employee to ask the customer if they want them and to provide them if the customer responds affirmatively. 

Counter Service/Self-Serve Station

  •  Allowed: In situations where customers can order their food at a counter (or pick it up through a cafeteria line), plastic utensils CAN be offered at a self-serve station. Utensils include spoons, forks, knives, sporks, and chopsticks.  (Definitions of terms)
  • Not Allowed: Plastic straws, stirrers, individual condiment packets, coffee creamers, CANNOT be offered at a self-serve station. Plastic versions of these items should be kept behind the counter and given only by customer request. 

Web or app orders: Plastic single-use items can be provided only after the customer has been prompted in the ordering process and has requested them.

Which businesses must comply?

Retail food and beverage establishments including:

  • Full service and fast food restaurants
  • Food carts
  • Bars
  • Coffee/tea shops
  • Grocery stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Hotels and Motels
  • Cafeterias
  • Food service contractors
  • Educational, medical and governmental institutions who provide food and beverages

Access to straws for people with disabilities

Some people with disabilities find it difficult or impossible to drink without a straw, and plastic straws meet their needs better than paper or metal straws. Even if you would like to eliminate plastic straws entirely, we recommend you keep a small supply to provide when requested.

How businesses benefit

By reducing the quantities of single-use plastic items, businesses can save money through reduced purchasing.

Switching to reusable dishware and cutlery in dine-in situations provides customers with a higher-quality dining experience and reduces purchasing and disposal costs. Customers expect businesses to reduce waste whenever possible. In a recent survey, respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of City action to reduce single-use plastics.

Enforcement and penalties

Businesses found in violation of the policy will receive a written warning from the City of Portland. Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) staff will work with businesses to achieve compliance and will consider unique circumstances when evaluating the level of compliance. If compliance is not reached fines are set at $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second, and $500 for any subsequent violation in the same calendar year.

Policy

Read the policy documents and find out more about policy development and public feedback.

Oregon Senate Bill 90 was passed on May 29, 2019, by the Oregon Legislative Assembly. This State bill also restricts straws to “by request” only, but the State bill does not preempt Portland’s bill. Businesses within Portland’s city limits will need to comply with Portland’s policy.

Questions?

References:

[1] Packaging Material Attributes, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality

[2] Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, concerns and impacts on marine environments, United Nations Environment Programme