Food establishments in Oregon are no longer allowed to automatically provide single-use plastic straws; customers have to ask for them.

Senate Bill 90, which became effective on June 13, 2019, and fully operative on Jan 1 of this year, prohibits food and beverage providers, such as restaurants and convenience stores, from providing single-use plastic straws unless the consumer specifically requests one.

The restrictions don’t apply to healthcare facilities or residential facilities that provide straws to patients.

Under the law, convenience stores can still make plastic straws available in an unattended location, such as a bin or a straw-dispenser, and plastic straws can be sold in bulk or separate from a food/drink item; a plastic straw just cannot be automatically included in the purchase of a food or drink.

Single-use straws made of a non-plastic material, such as paper, pasta, sugar cane, wood or bamboo, aren’t subject to the law.

The State Department of Agriculture is responsible for inspecting food establishments and enforcing the new law. After the second violation, businesses will be fined $25 per day that the prohibition is violated, with a cap at $300 per calendar year.

The bill officially declared an emergency, citing the necessity of the act for “the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”

While many cities, including Portland, have passed local “plastic straw bans” since Seattle enacted a ban in July 2018, Oregon is the second state to pass legislation restricting single-use plastic straws statewide — California was the first, with a law that went into effect January 2019.

Just months after Oregon passed SB 90, the State of Vermont adopted a law restricting plastic bags, straws and expanded polystyrene (EPS), to go into effect in July 2020.

Following the House vote on SB 90, Gov. Kate Brown told Associated Press reporters that the decision to ban plastic straws is about raising public consciousness of plastic’s effect on the environment and to encourage comprehensive lifestyle changes.

 “Every action makes a difference,” Brown is quoted in a May 30, 2019, Associated Press article. “When we start thinking of a path to a plastic-free life, it’s really challenging, and I think we all have to start moving to that mindset.”

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