Column: Allow reusable food containers | Opinion


Since the start of the pandemic, restaurant takeout has exploded. This means that waste and pollution from plastic take-out containers has also increased.

In an effort to do my part, I tried to bring a reusable container to my favorite restaurant when I picked up my takeout order, but the restaurant told me it was illegal for them to use my container! I got the same response when I tried to use a reusable salad box at the grocery store salad bar.

Oregon has adopted U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules that prohibit customers from bringing their own containers to grocery stores and restaurants in an effort to reduce plastic waste. The rationale for this rule is to avoid “cross contamination”. In adopting this rule, Oregon failed to consider the huge environmental impact of single-use plastics like take-out containers.

In 2019, a working group began to look at this rule and consider alternatives, to allow consumers to do their part to reduce the accumulation of tons of plastic waste by bringing their own reusable containers. This effort was derailed by the pandemic, but is now up and running again.

Beginning this year, the task force is again considering recommendations to modify or eliminate this rule. I want to encourage anyone who has ever had takeout and is as horrified as I am by all the garbage it generates to write to your state lawmakers and urge them to support all efforts to overthrow this rule and allow reusable food containers. This step will not require restaurant and grocery store customers to bring their own containers, but it will give them the option to do so.

Seems like an easy way to make a potentially big difference to the amount of plastic waste we use and throw away every day.

Isabella Cohn is a resident of Oregon City.


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