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 Research & Policy Center

Children’s book empowers kids to reduce plastic waste

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to self-publish the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, it is now printed and available for purchase online. 

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Report | Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center

Safe for Swimming?

The Clean Water Act, adopted in 1972 with overwhelming bi-partisan support, had the farsighted and righteous goal of making all our waterways safe for swimming. Yet 46 years later, all too often, Americans visiting their favorite beach are met by an advisory warning that the water is unsafe for swimming. 

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Legislative session recap: the good, the bad and the ugly | Celeste Meiffren-Swango

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News Release | Environment Oregon

Polystyrene foam ban voted down by Oregon Senate 15-14

A bill to ban polystyrene foam takeout containers and cups in Oregon, House Bill 2883, was voted down in the Oregon Senate by a vote of 15-14 today. Here's our statement in response.

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News Release | Environment Oregon

Oregon legislature sends ban on single-use plastic bags to Governor’s desk

Today, House Bill 2509 (also known as the Sustainable Shopping Initiative) cleared its final hurdle in the Oregon legislature when it passed the Oregon Senate with a vote of 17-12. Intended to fight plastic pollution and reduce the use of single-use plastics in Oregon, HB 2509 would ban single-use plastic grocery bags and require a 5-cent fee on single-use paper bags. It now heads to the Governor’s desk for her signature.

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