Foam food container ban under consideration in Lane County

The Lane Board of County Commissioners are discussing the possibility of pursuing a countywide ban on polystyrene food containers, otherwise known as Styrofoam.

Posted: Mar 4, 2021 1:38 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2021 11:47 AM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- The Lane Board of County Commissioners discussed the possibility of pursuing a countywide ban on polystyrene food containers, commonly known as styrofoam, on Tuesday.

The use of the plastic, which is often used as single-use takeout containers at restaurants, has been criticized as a common source of litter that is long-lasting and difficult to recycle. Cities like Eugene, Florence and Portland have already banned food providers from using foam.

RELATED: EUGENE PASSES BAN ON STYROFOAM, SINGLE-USE BAGS FOR RESTAURANTS

During public comment on Tuesday, the board heard from numerous residents who would support a ban.

"I've received testimony from a lot of people, inside my office, inside the grocery store, wherever. It's really towards those clamshells that other cities have banned, and I think there's a strong mood afoot to ban them in Lane County," said Commissioner Pat Farr.

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According to the county, the board could only ban foam in unincorporated parts of the county, but action from the county's Board of Public Health could force the hand of incorporated cities. 

Officials said the public health impacts of foam are not clear. Still, some commissioners emphasized the importance of preventing litter and promoting recyclable and reusable materials.

"Reducing the amount of these kinds of products and our use of them is the ultimate and best goal. Products that can be reused and recycled should be the final option. Anything we can do to move us to that should be our goal," said Commissioner Laurie Trieger.

The costs of enforcing a foam ban haven't been calculated, and according to the county, it is likely that a ban would add financial costs to businesses. Commissioner Jay Bozievich expressed those concerns, as well as his belief that market forces could already lead to decreasing demand for foam food containers.

"We have no other county code that bans a consumer product, nor do we have any county divisions that are charged with enforcing bans of consumer products and we would have to invent one somewhere," said Bozievich.

Chair Joe Berney ended the discussion by suggesting that the board request a recommendation on the possibility of a ban from the county's Public Health Advisory Committee.

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