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

New Year, new law: statewide ban on single-use bags goes into effect

A new law that bans single-use carryout bags across the state of Oregon went into effect with the New Year. Today, a group of lawmakers and environmental advocates came together to celebrate. 

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News Release | Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center

New study: Oregon is facing serious recycling challenges

Oregon is moving backwards, both when it comes to its recycling rate and waste reduction efforts, according to a new study from Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center. The second annual State of Recycling in Oregon highlights structural challenges, the rise of plastic, the effects of failing to recycle, plastic-to-fuel efforts, and trends in the state’s recycling data.

> Keep Reading
Report | Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center

The State of Recycling in Oregon

In 2019, the state of recycling is disappointing. Our report shows that in order to tackle our plastic waste crisis, we need to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics we don't need, reuse what we can, and make it possible to recycle the rest. The time to take action is now.

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Blog Post

A straw and a sea turtle: Why we should stop using single-use plastic | Michaela Morris

The video provides visceral imagery of the suffering caused by single-use plastic. Marine animals, like this turtle, ...do not deserve to suffer extraordinary pain because of the vast quantities of disposable plastic products that end up in the sea. 

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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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