Pollution from discarded single-use plastics poses a major threat to wildlife and leaves our beaches littered with trash. A portion of that trash is made up of single-use plastic straws and stirrers that do not naturally break down. Plastic straws and stirrers are small enough to be accidentally ingested by wildlife and, rather than break down naturally in the environment like paper or wood-based products, plastic straws break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These “microplastics” are easily eaten by organisms as small as plankton, allowing the ingested plastic to travel up the food chain, even to us humans.
In 2018, your Miami Waterkeeper fought for the implementation of a ban on the distribution of plastic straws in the Village of Key Biscayne. Passed unanimously by the Village Council, the straw ordinance prohibits commercial establishments from distributing plastic straws starting January 1, 2019. The ordinance also contains exceptions for those who need a straw due to a medical or physical condition. The Village of Pinecrest, Surfside, and Miami Beach have also taken steps to reduce plastic pollution by implementing plastic straw bans. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to plastic straws that work just as well and are kinder to the environment including paper, steel, sugar cane, and wooden straws.
The Miami Waterkeeper Team with Mayor Mayra Lindsay after a successful ban on plastic straws in the Village of Key Biscayne.
While these victories are worth celebrating, there is still significant work that needs to be done. Florida’s legislature has worked to preempt local regulation of sources of plastic pollution by passing statutes that prevent localities from banning products like plastic bags and polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers. Known as home rule and based on the idea that government should be closer to the people, Florida’s constitution allows local governments to regulate in any area the state can unless the legislature expressly or impliedly preempts certain subjects. These preemptions preventing local governments from regulating plastics are an attack on cities’ and counties’ home rule powers. Miami Waterkeeper will continue to fight for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water as well as fight for local home rule power so local governments can continue to make progress in the interest of environmental protection.
Check out some local straw ordinances here:
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