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St. Pete City Council advances plan to ban plastic straws

Margie Manning

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Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

A ban on single-use plastic straws by food service establishments would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, under a measure that won preliminary approval Thursday in the St. Petersburg City Council.

The proposed ordinance will be up for a public hearing and a second reading at the council’s Dec. 13 meeting.

The proposal that’s before the city council followed extensive disucssion in the council’s Health, Energy, Resiliency and Sustainability Committee. The HERS committee voted in October to advance the measure, which additionally bans the use of expanded polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam, on city-owned property.

Proponents say the restrictions would reduce litter and pollutants, while some business interests are concerned about the cost and the feasibility of the proposal.

Food service establishments would not be allowed to give customers a single-use plastic drinking straw unless the customer requests one, beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, if the  measure wins final approval. One year later, on Jan. 1, 2020, they would be barred from giving out the straws completely.

Council members rejected an effort by Councilman Ed Montanari to delete the language authorizing the permanent ban, although he is likely to bring that language up again at next week’s second reading.

Montanari and Councilwoman Brandi Gabbard said they would first like to see more education and outreach about a voluntary restriction that took place earlier this year.

“I have great concern about the drive-thru restaurants, our chain franchise business owners that are very much a part of the economy of our city as well. We have not done the outreach that I believe should be done to them specifically,” Gabbard said.

It’s not that difficult to communicate, said Councilwoman Darden Rice.

“It’s not rocket science. People are already doing this,” Rice said. “It’s reasonable, it takes a year to go into effect, and we have completely articulated our willingness and have already begun outreach to businesses.”

The HERS committee also has considered placing a fee on single-use plastic bags, but that proposal wasn’t included in the measure voted on by the City Council Thursday and will take more time to work through, a city attorney told the council.

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