TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee approved a bill today that would prevent local governments from banning plastic straws while the Florida Department of Environmental Protection studies the environmental impact of plastic.
Senate Bill 588 would prevent local governments from enforcing existing bans on plastic straws or passing new ordinances to ban them for five years while the study is conducted.
The bill would similarly prohibit local ordinances regulating sunscreens with ingredients believed to negatively impact coral reefs.
The original bill provided that a food service establishment could only distribute a single-use plastic straw to a customer on request, but bill sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson (R- Palm Coast) amended the bill today to preempt local bans instead.
“I just stop at government telling businesses what they can and cannot do,” he said during today’s committee meeting.
Hutson said that children and disabled people need plastic straws at public eateries to avoid choking hazards.
“We need to allow municipalities to lead the way locally to do what they need to do locally to protect themselves,” Laura Reynolds, of the Miami-based Plastics Free Coalition, told the committee. “We have plenty of studies out there to tell us single-use plastics are an environmental problem.”
Holly Parker Curry with Surfrider Foundation agreed, saying that plastic straws are a large portion of the trash in Surfrider beach cleanups statewide.
“At this point we don’t need a study, we need action,” she said.
Deborah Foote, of the Sierra Club of Florida, called the bill “unwise” and “disrespectful to local officials.”
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring has long opposed plastic straws because of their impact on sea turtles.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy predicts that without bans on single-use plastics, like straws and cutlery, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
If passed by the Legislature, the bill would become law on July 1.