Follow Up: Styrofoam and Plastic Ban

By Sabian Keller and Lola Fettis

Our local government has attempted to pass several bans on single-use products or other products that they worry might be harmful to our environment. Single-use products are disposable items produced to be used once. Of the many proposed to be banned, our city has only outlawed plastic straws. Though they’ve also banned the sale of any sunscreen that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate.

           Our city government wants to ban them because they’re worried about our environment. Single-use products have been found to be damaging since they can take hundreds to thousands of years to deteriorate. Though certain one time use products can be recycled, a 2017 study by the University of California, Santa Cruz, found that 91% of plastic ends up in landfills or the ocean. This is also proven by the Environmental Protection Agency. As for the ban on sunscreen, the main mission there is to protect our coral. According to several studies oxybenzone from certain sunscreens can seep into the water and then be absorbed by coral. The chemical contains nanoparticles that disrupt the reproduction and coral growth cycles.

Even though our city has identified reasons they think are suitable to ban such products, they’re connected to more than just the environment. That is why there have been rules placed on how these bans work. For instance, the restriction of plastic straws is aimed at businesses not people in possession of them. To expand on this exceptions have been made for disabled people who depend on the straws, packaged drinks that come with them, medical and dental offices, and the Monroe County School District.

Several cities have tried to put a ban on municipalities that force businesses to comply with the ban on plastic straws , but have failed and were shut down.This is due to HB771(House Bill 771), a general Bill by State Affairs Committee ; Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. HB 771 is a bill that deals with dock repairs, contamination of recyclable materials, and the installation of overhead transmission lines. There is no mention of the plastic straw ban until page twenty-four of a twenty-four page document.This law states that local governments were not allowed to restrict or ban single use plastic until The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability conducted a study on the exact ban which would then have to be approved by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives no later than December 1, 2019. By being piggybacked into this bill, the plastic straw ban cannot be addressed by any municipality for the next four years. Another law specifically prevents the ban of polystyrene products- styrofoam. The law states that only the specific department can decide whether or not they will use polystyrene products. However this law does not apply to any bans made before Jan. 1, 2016, as well as the ability of local governments to restrict use of such products by temporary vendors on public property.

The lobbying effort is led by the Plastics Industry Association known as “PLASTICS” and its lobbying arm the American Progressive Bag Alliance, “APBA”. Both have used model legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council to preempt local laws on plastic bags and auxiliary containers. The lobbyists refuse to let legislators ban the products until studies have been proven and will only negotiate before July 1st, 2024. The HB771 quotes,
“Before July 1, 2024, a county, a municipality, or another entity of local government may not adopt or enforce an ordinance or other local regulations relating to single-use plastic straws”. The lobbyists are also siding with companies and stores, who would suffer if the products were to be banned. 

       Just like Key West, other cities have been prohibited from banning certain products, and are working in various ways against those restricted bans. Such as Coral Gables, whose bans were shut down by a Florida court. Though Coral Gables is still fighting the decision by trying to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. According to Commissioner Michael Mena, this is what most of the residents want. Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli said that the preemptions were an “assault” on the “ability of people to be governed by those elected officials that are closest to them, rather than the people in Tallahassee that have nothing to do with us.”
            Despite progress being made to ban or restrict these products, they are still being used right now and will continue to be for a while. Although there have been suggested ways on how we can properly dispose of it. Styrofoam can’t be recycled because it takes more energy to clean the product, though there are alternatives to recycling, such as not using styrofoam at all. You can use substitute packaging made from plastics, paper, cardboard, or other materials. You can also reuse it or find companies, departments, or businesses that will.

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