Eugene becomes latest city in Oregon to ban food service polystyrene foam, building momentum for a statewide ban

Contact:

  • Abby Keep, Wildlife Over Waste Coordinator
  • OSPIRG Students
  • 971-801-3459

Eugene becomes latest city in Oregon to ban food service polystyrene foam, building momentum for a statewide ban

Eugene (November 25, 2019) –  After a year-long OSPIRG Students campaign, the Eugene City Council voted to ban foam cups and takeout containers made of polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, with a vote of 8 in-favor and 0 against. With Eugene joining other cities such as Portland, Ashland, and Medford, one-third of Oregonians are now living without polystyrene.

“Nothing we use for five minutes should injure our wildlife and pollute our environment for hundreds of years,” said Abby Keep, University of Oregon class of ‘20 and Wildlife Over Waste coordinator. “After over a year of campaigning for this change, we are excited that the Eugene City Council took such an important step in putting wildlife over waste.”

Americans use and throw away 70 million foam cups each year. For a bird or fish or turtle, it’s easy to mistake a small piece of plastic for food, and ingesting these fragments is often fatal.

Students from OSPIRG Students at the University of Oregon and Lane Community College testified at city council three times in support of the ban. This year alone, OSPIRG Students built support for the ban from over 50 small business owners and employees, distributing “foam-free restaurant” signs. Students collected over 1,000 petitions on campus, as well as hosting a Jar Jam event at the University of Oregon with live music from local bands to educate the campus about plastic pollution and reusable alternative such as glass jars.

OSPIRG Students—the state’s oldest student-directed and funded nonprofit, worked with ordinance sponsor Councilor Semple and with Counselor Zelenka to build support for the ban on polystyrene foam cups and takeout containers which will go into effect immediately with a one-year grace period. “I want to give a shout out to the OSPIRG Students who have been persistent in promoting this effort. I’m inspired and supportive,” said Councilor Semple. Students hope that the action in Eugene to ban polystyrene will build momentum for a statewide ban.

The chemical industry has funded efforts to defeat bans like this in the past. In the last legislative session, a bill to ban polystyrene across the state failed by just one vote in the senate after lobbying by the American Chemistry Council and Tigard chemical company Agilyx. OSPIRG Students has a track record of winning campaigns against plastic pollution. In addition to saving the historic bottle bill, students worked to ban plastic grocery bags in Eugene and met with elected officials in March as a part of Rise Above Plastics Day to support legislation such as the plastic grocery bag ban.

“It’s exciting that Eugene is joining Portland, Ashland, and Medford in banning unnecessary single-use plastic foam,” said Sophia Reyes, Wildlife Over Waste Grassroots Coordinator for OSPIRG at Lane Community College. “Now, Oregon should join Maine, Maryland and the many cities that have acted to ban polystyrene and put wildlife over waste.”

Abby Keep, U of O class of 2020, picks up disintegrating foam container in Alton Baker Park on Oct. 19, 2019.

U of O and Lane Community College students pose with “Eugene Ban Foam” signs.

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Hailey Coleman, U of O class of 2021 testifying to city council on 11/18.

Olivia Meyer, U of O class of 2021, testifies at Eugene City Council with students on Jan. 14, 2019.

Elizabeth Radcliffe, OSPIRG Board Chair and U of O class of 2020, testifies at Eugene City Council on March 11, 2019.

Ivy Renner, OSPIRG Intern and U of O class of 2021, speaks at campus Jar Jam on March 6th, 2018.

OSPIRG Students with Councillor Zelanka on March 6th 2018.