The Florida Senate Committee on Commerce & Tourism voted last week to pass an amended version of SB 588.
The original outline of the bill made it so that plastic straws would still be available at establishments, but only per request.
The Senate committee voted to amend the bill, removing the previous ordinance that made the straws available on request and instead will ban all straw ordinances throughout the state while the Department of Environmental Protection examines whether plastic straws are impacting the environment.
Travis Huston, the committee membered who introduced the amended bill, told the Miami Herald, “I realized that I was kind of putting my own thoughts into this. It was government overreach, so what I did was file an amendment that would put a moratorium but give us a study.”
This is not the first time the Legislature has enacted such a law. In 2008, the DEP passed the same law to analyze the need for different regulations in the use of various plastic containers, wrappings and plastic bags used by establishments as carryout bags.
Jennifer Rubiello, spokeswoman for the organization Environment Florida, said that by allowing the use of plastic straws to continue, the state is continuing to allow harm to the environment.
“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.
Keep Florida Beautiful volunteer Chakeira Towels is all too familiar with effects of plastics straws and how they harm the environment and beaches.
“There are tons of straws everywhere when we go do beach clean-ups,” she said. “You can literally fill up your entire trash bag with them. The worst part is to see them- or any plastic for that matter floating in the water.”
There are currently 10 cities that are at odds with Florida lawmakers in an effort to regulate the use of plastic.
In 2016, Coral Gables decided to ban the use of Styrofoam containers even after a law prohibiting them from doing so. That same year, the Florida Retail Federation and the owners of 7-Eleven, Super Proreso, sued the city. They alleged that they had not broken the law. The courts ruled that the ordinance was “valid and enforceable,” resulting in fines for local establishments throughout the city.
The moratorium on plastic straws is set to be carried out until 2024. Until then, local governments will not have the authority to ban them and any city that does will be fined a minimum of $25,000.