Plastic bags are one of the most commonly found items on our Litter Gitter trips and in our natural areas. For years, the state has prohibited local governments from regulating single-use plastic bags. We are trying to change that.
In Florida, it is currently against the law for municipalities to ban single-use plastic bags. Let that sink in for a minute. Even if a community acknowledges that single-use plastics are harming the local environment, and residents come to a consensus to eliminate the source of the problem, Florida law prohibits them from banning these materials within their own jurisdiction. Passed in 2008, the law was intended to be temporary. The language stated that municipalities could not ban disposable plastic bags until the Florida Department of Environmental Protection provided a report on the need for regulations of single-use plastics for the Legislature. The report was submitted to the Legislature in 2010, but no action was taken. Eleven years later, the outdated law is still on the books.
Luckily, cities are starting to fight back. In 2016, the City of Coral Gables passed an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene (styrofoam). Later that year, the City was sued by the Florida Retail Federation, which cited a violation of the aforementioned law. The judge in the case ruled in favor of the City on the basis that, since the Legislature failed to take action based on FDEP’s recommendations, local governments have been trapped in limbo. FRF has since appealed the case, which remains pending.
In light of this victory, many organizations and municipalities have started to push for their own bans on single-use plastic bags. In July of 2019, the City of St. Augustine Beach passed a suite of ordinances banning single-use plastic bags, straws, and expanded polystyrene. Unfortunately, the City was swiftly threatened with a lawsuit from the Florida Retail Federation and repealed the ordinances.
Local governments are in the best position to deal with issues like single-use plastics and should be able to decide how to regulate them. To compile information about this issue, The University of Florida is conducting a survey on behalf of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to learn more about the use of plastic bags, auxiliary materials, and wrappings and they want to hear from YOU.
Are you a local business owner? If so, there is a survey for you too.
Follow this link to take the retailers and restaurants survey.