100 million tons of plastic in our ocean

For decades, people have been dumping millions of tons of plastic and other trash into the Pacific. Today, there’s so much plastic swirling around that the ocean’s currents have formed a toxic soup of plastic trash in an area called the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Located 1,000 miles off the coast, the Pacific Garbage Patch has tripled in size since it was discovered in the 1980s — and it’s expected to double in the next 10 years. It’s creating an environmental disaster for ocean wildlife: Plastic and other marine debris kills millions of sea turtles, sea birds and marine mammals every year who mistake it for food.

Marine life in danger

All of this trash in the Pacific is creating an ecological disaster:

  • Turtles and seabirds frequently ingest floating plastic, mistaking it for food. They also get entangled in bags and often drown or die of suffocation.
  • Adult seabirds inadvertently feed small bits of plastic to their chicks — often causing them to starve to death after their stomachs become filled with plastic.
  • Toxic pollutants leach from the plastic into the water. Scientists are now studying whether fish and other marine animals absorb these toxic pollutants. If so, there is a good chance that we also absorb them when we eat fish.

What’s really scary is that scientists tell us this plastic may never biodegrade. And every day we go without tackling this problem, it becomes a little bit worse.

With your help, we can stop the flow of trash and begin the cleanup

The first thing to do when your bathtub is overflowing is to turn the water off: It is time to turn the trash faucet off so we can start the clean up. 

Oregonians use more than 1 billion single-use plastic bags each year — and too many of them end up polluting our ocean. The solution is simple: ban the bags! Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our oceans for hundreds of years. 

Oregonians know this and are taking action to protect the Pacific. While the initial effort for statewide legislation was blocked by the powerful out-of-state plastic industry, we aren’t giving up. Individual cities around the state are taking action. In 2011, 8 cities formally supported a statewide ban, and four pledged to take action if the state did not.

Four cities leading the way, more to follow

The City of Portland led the way, becoming the first city in Oregon to adopt a ban. With our support, Corvallis, Eugene, and Ashland followed soon after. Our local victories are making an immediate impact. We're reducing the amount of plastic that pollutes our ocean and endangers wildlife. And we're paving the way for more bag bans, with community support growing in cities like Bend and Salem.

Local bans have an immediate impact and are a great start. But we won't stop until plastic bags are banned statewide.

We need you to get involved if we’re going to stop the flow of plastic pollution into the Pacific. Your support will make it possible for our staff to do research, make our case to the media, reach out to critical constituencies, testify in Salem, and inform government officials to make the right choices. If enough of us speak out, we can protect our ocean. Join our campaign by sending your legislators a message today.

Environment Oregon staff talks to the media outside Portland City Hall the day Portland votes to pass a better bag ban. 

Issue updates

News Release | Environment Oregon

More than 500 citizens and 100 businesses call on Ashland City Council to ban the bag

A campaign to protect the Pacific Ocean and its wildlife by banning plastic bags from Ashland kicks off today with a free screening of the film ‘Bag It,’ hosted by the citizen-based, environmental advocacy organization Environment Oregon. Rogue Riverkeeper, Jackson County Master Recyclers, nearly 100 businesses, as well as the Northwest Grocery Association have all joined Environment Oregon to ban the bag in Ashland. More than 500 citizens have also signed petitions in support of the ban.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment Oregon

Oregon Comes In 6th in First-Ever Ranking of States on Ocean Protection

Oregon ranks sixth in working to protect state ocean waters, according to a report released today by Environment Oregon, the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue.  The SeaStates report is the first national ranking of coastal states’ efforts to protect their ocean waters with ‘no-take’ Marine Protected Areas, the best tool to help oceans thrive.

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News Release | Environment Oregon

Portland Passes a Better Bag Ban for the Pacific

Portland City Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of expanding Portland’s plastic bag ban that will help keep plastic out of the Pacific. Environment Oregon delivered over 3,000 petitions of support for a better bag ban, and helped enlist the support of dozens of businesses. 

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News Release | Environment Oregon

Eugene Becomes Third City in Oregon to Ban the Bag

Eugene became the third Oregon city to implement a single-use plastic bag ban when the city council voted to ban plastic checkout bags and put a fee on paper bags. The decision will have big payoffs for Oregon’s environment and the Pacific Ocean.

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News Release | Environment Oregon

Portland Should Pass a Better Bag Ban

Environment Oregon announced their response to the City of Portland’s one-year report on the plastic bag ban. State Director Sarah Higginbotham released a statement endorsing an expansion of the plastic bag ban policy. Portland can continue to make a meaningful difference.

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