Florida Keys

Islamorada hears feedback and backs off. It won’t ban plastic straws for now

In July, bartenders picked up 437 straws along a two-block stretch of Miami Beach. While that city is expanding its ban on plastic straws, Islamorada has decided against a ban and will simply discourage their use.
In July, bartenders picked up 437 straws along a two-block stretch of Miami Beach. While that city is expanding its ban on plastic straws, Islamorada has decided against a ban and will simply discourage their use. Dave Doebler

The Village of Islamorada for now will not join a growing list of municipalities, including Miami Beach, that have limited the use and sale of plastic straws.

Instead, the village will work on a resolution aimed at encouraging restaurants and other businesses to use less plastic, with the ultimate goal of voluntarily eliminating not only plastic straws and stirrers, but also plastic bags, cups, knives and forks, as well as Styrofoam food packages and cups.

“I am 98 percent eco-friendly now, and I wasn’t six months ago,” Councilman Mike Forster, who owns the popular Mangrove Mike’s Cafe, said during the council’s Thursday meeting at Founders Park. “And, it has cost me money and I haven’t passed it on to my customers at this point, and I’m happy about it.”

The five-member council passed an ordinance on first reading July 19 to outlaw single-use plastic straws and stirrers within the village. It also would have fined bars and restaurants that use them and stores that sell them $250.

But feedback from the public was widely negative, and dozens of people showed up at Thursday’s meeting to urge the council not to pass the ordinance on a second reading. The council tabled the issue, asking its legal staff to draft a resolution that includes language to encourage the phasing out of plastic products.

Resident Carla Bahn, while agreeing with the goal of eventually eliminating disposable plastic products that end up in the bay and ocean and clog up canals, called the ordinance as written “a redundancy in our existing litter laws.”

John Fernandez said a much more serious littering problem in the village stems from revelers who frequent the beaches of Indian Key Fill on the weekends.

“You know and I know that the trash generated at the fill is more of a problem than straws,” Fernandez said.

Councilman Jim Mooney said the court of public opinion is already largely leaning away from supporting restaurants offering plastic straws, so enforcing a ban is not necessary.

“Eventually, there will be no plastic straws because if you use them, they’re going to eat you alive,” Mooney said, referring to pressure from the public on social media, especially among people under 40. “It’s already working on the streets.”

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