The Miami Beach City Commission expanded the city’s ban on plastic straws Wednesday to include sidewalk cafes, parks, marinas, piers and docks. Plastic stirrers were also banned.
Rollout of the policy will be in phases: three months of education for businesses, three months of written warnings for violators, and full enforcement by the Code Compliance Department starting in February 2019.
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“When you see firsthand how invasive plastic can be in our environment, it really compels the desire to do something,” Mayor Dan Gelber told the Miami Herald. “We need to be the most plastic-free city in the world.”
The move comes six years after Miami Beach first took action on plastic straws, prohibiting businesses from providing them to beachgoers. But the impact was limited.
Because plastic straws are small and narrow, they are difficult to collect on the beach and tend to slip through barriers in storm drains, ending up in the ocean. They can take hundreds of years to degrade.
At a cleanup event last year, 10 local bartenders collected more than 400 straws within a two-block stretch of Miami Beach, according to the city’s Sustainability Committee chair, Dave Doebler.
“This is all about protecting our bay and protecting our oceans,” Doebler said. “We’re not trying to completely disrupt business. We’re realizing that we need to take a very methodical approach to how we protect our bay and our oceans from plastic pollution.”
The legislation means sidewalk cafes along Ocean Drive — known for serving margaritas and other drinks featuring straws — will need to find an alternative to plastic. But the timing may be right.
The Ocean Drive Business Association recently found a vendor who sells non-plastic straws that satisfy at least some business owners, according to Ceci Velasco, the executive director.