Florida is pushing legislation that would stop local authorities from banning plastic straws. The bill, under consideration by lawmakers, would place a five-year suspension on municipalities’ banning of plastic straws, pending a study from the Florida department of environmental protection. Calling the banning of plastic straws “government overreach”, the Florida state senator Travis Hutson also amended the bill to create a $25,000 fine for local governments that regulate the material and another ban on municipal regulation of sunscreens that harm coral reefs.
The move goes against previous efforts by the state to mitigate the damage caused by straws. The state department of environmental protection encourages Florida residents to “skip the straw” and reduce their plastic use. In a statement to the Guardian, the agency declared: “Plastic straws are one of the many single-use plastics that litter beaches, pollute oceans, and harm wildlife.”
Holly Parker-Curry of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental not-for-profit organization that prioritizes clean oceans and beaches, said: “If anything, Florida should be leading the country in environmental policy … The legislature has really tied the hands of local governments and given them no way to protect their local environment from the hazards of single-use plastic.”
Plastic is increasingly a core focus of the global environmental movement. There are five known gyres of trash in the ocean, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch being the largest. According to the philanthropy organization Global Citizen, 60-90% of marine litter is plastic. Even the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana trench, had high levels of plastic pollution. Globally, the fight to reduce plastic has expanded recently, the first battle being against single-use plastic. California was the first state to ban straws in public restaurants unless requested, largely due to environmental concerns.
Parker-Curry believes this bill will harm the environment in the long run. “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.