Florida took a step back in the eyes of the environment earlier this week when the Senate Commerce and Tourism committee approved a bill Monday that puts a moratorium on the intended ban against plastic straws.
Surrounded by ocean, Florida is one of the states most impacted by marine litter. According to the philanthropy organization Global Citizen, 60-90% of marine litter is plastic, and even the deepest parts of the ocean have been infiltrated by microplastics. In an effort to decrease the pressure put on the environment, local governments in Florida had previously approved plastic straw bans, with restaurants agreeing only to offer straws upon customers’ requests. The state Department of Environmental Protection also campaigned a “Skip the Straw” message and in recent years Coral Gables, St. Petersburg, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale have passed regulations about plastic utensils.
But now that hard work is to be under scrutiny, with the proposed by Republican Senator Travis Hutson. Senator Hutson commented that previous bans were a “government overreach.” His response was to introduce a five-year stay on locally enacted bans, making it illegal for local goverments to ban plastic straws until 2024 once the results of a Department of Environmental Protection study have been determined. Violating the bill carries a hefty fine of $25,000 for restaurants.
Jennifer Rubiello, of St. Petersburg-based Environment Florida, voiced her concern over the threat that single-use plastics like straws pose to Florida’s wildlife and waterways. “As a state surrounded by water on three sides, we should be leading the nation in moving away from single-use plastics rather than tying the hands of local governments who want to protect wildlife and the health of their communities from pollution,” she said.
Holly Parker-Curry of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental not-for-profit organization that prioritizes clean oceans and beaches, echoed Rubiello’s concerns, commenting that more than enough evidence has been documented regarding the danger of plastic pollution: “That, to us, is abundantly clear and does not warrant a study. Candidly, anybody who participates in the beach clean-up can see that single-use straws are impacting beaches and the natural environment,” she said.