Sarasota Commission nears its last straw

Editor & Publisher

Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved a new law that will ban polystyrene and Styrofoam containers on City property. Plastic drinking straws will be allowed only if a patron asks for them.

The new rules go into effect at the beginning of 2020, with an exception made for restaurants or any company that leases city property. Those entities will not have to comply until their lease is renewed.

Commissioner Hagen Brody said that the new rules would be impossible to enforce and questioned what the punishment would be.

While the commission did not want to outright ban plastic straws, there was an objection to the idea of requiring restaurants to keep both plastic and paper straws on hand. Another issue on banning straws was the desire to accommodate disabled people and their advocates who maintain that they need straws to be available in order to drink.

Brody expressed his dislike of paper straws, while Mayor Liz Alpert sought to encourage their use.

The entire effort is to reduce the amount of plastic waste with an emphasis in attempting to mitigate the 8 million metric tons of plastic that the City says ends up in the world’s oceans each year.

According to Keep Sarasota County Beautiful, 6,649 plastic straws were cleaned up on local beaches between 2013 and 2017. Additionally, the City cites the findings of Mote Marine Laboratory, which has found that deceased sea turtle hatchlings have shown significant ingestion of microplastics.

In the end, it was decided that the new ordinance will require all food service providers to keep both non-plastic and plastic drinking straws at their establishments at all times and available upon request.

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