Gainesville’s new zero waste ordinance will continue to alter community relationships with polluting single-use products. The new solid waste city policy limits businesses from handing out single-use plastics such as plastic utensils, condiment packets and portion cups unless requested by customers. The ordinance also bans the sale of food packaged in foam containers on city property.

The ordinance joins the ever-growing list of local sustainability-oriented commercial policies dating back to 1997. The Gainesville Zero Waste Subcommittee, which is behind the ordinance, aims to divert 90% of the city’s waste from landfills by 2040. Limiting plastics isn’t a new sustainability strategy from the city. In 2020, the city banned single-use plastic straws and stirrers, including straws made from “biologically based polymers.”

The new ordinance puts the responsibility of environmental consciousness on consumers, but they’re likely to still purchase single-use plastics out of convenience, said Leslie Thiele, director of the UF sustainability studies program. “It’s a step in the right direction,” Thiele said. “But it’s far from perfect.”

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Author: Fernando Figueroa, The Alligator
Image: The Alligator