Florida Senate Blocks Local Governments From Banning Plastic Straws

Local governments have been dealt a massive blow in their attempt to ban plastic straws after Florida lawmakers passed an environmental bill that’s now headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

Pushed through on a 24-15 vote, the Florida Senate has placed a five-year moratorium on plastic straw bans while the issue is studied.

The study would take a look at “each ordinance or regulation adopted” by local governments, and a report of the study would be submitted to political leaders by December.

Environmental groups are displeased with the fact that the study would focus on the “data and conclusions” used in instituting bans rather than the actual pollution caused by plastic straws.

According to Eco-Cycle, more than 500 million plastic straws are used on a daily basis in the U.S. A recent study in Science Advances found that as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute beaches worldwide.

“Out town’s obligation is to protect our natural resources, and in my case, as the mayor of a barrier island, our biggest natural resource is our aquatic environment,” Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda told The News-Press. “For someone in Tallahassee to tell me they know how to do that better than those of us who are here with our feet on the ground is ridiculous and insulting.”

A total of 10 cities across Florida had already enacted or at least put into motion plastic straw bans.

Even though Fort Lauderdale’s plastic straw ban was supposed to take effect in January of 2019, Mayor Dean Trantalis said local eateries had already started to transition away from plastic.

“Businesses all over the city have already changed over [from plastic straws to paper straws],” he told CBS Miami.

Trantalis echoed Cereceda’s sentiments about state lawmakers meddling in local government affairs.

“It’s disheartening to think that people in Tallahassee know what’s going on in Fort Lauderdale,” he said.

While lawmakers have taken the decision out of the hands of local government, there is nothing stopping Florida businesses from instituting their own policies.

“Businesses should be free to decide the best manner in which to serve their customers,” the bill read.

Well before the Senate bill passed, Christopher Cartenuto had told the Sun Sentinel he wasn’t in favor of local governments imposing restrictions.

“More rules are not a great way to go,” Cartenuto, who owns Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox, said. “Let the market decide.”

Companies like Starbucks and Bon Appetit have initiated their own bans on plastic straws. McDonald’s has begun testing alternatives to plastic straws at select U.S. restaurants after already banning them in U.K. and Ireland.

Lisabet Summa, corporate chef and partner of Bossi’s Italian Ristorante, decided to move away from plastic straws.

“It was a fairly easy thing to do that has a big impact,” said Summa, whose two locations are in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. “We found a straw that’s not soggy by the end of the meal. The hospitality industry can take a forward lead on these small items.”

Gov. DeSantis is headed to Fort Lauderdale on May 8 for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance’s Mid-Year Meeting and Luncheon. Trantalis said the visit will give him a chance to speak with the governor about vetoing the bill.