Miami-Dade County

Styrofoam ban starts Saturday in Miami-Dade parks: ‘That’s the end of Cuban coffee in parks’

An abandoned Styrofoam cup on Miami-Dade’s Crandon Park Beach in Key Biscyane, photographed days before county commissioners voted in June 2016 to ban Styrofoam and similar materials from Miami-Dade parks. The restrictions take effect July 1, 2017.
An abandoned Styrofoam cup on Miami-Dade’s Crandon Park Beach in Key Biscyane, photographed days before county commissioners voted in June 2016 to ban Styrofoam and similar materials from Miami-Dade parks. The restrictions take effect July 1, 2017. DOUGLAS HANKS

Styrofoam coolers will be even more unwelcome on Miami-Dade beaches this Fourth of July weekend, as the county Parks Department begins enforcing a ban approved last year.

The ban on the lightweight, crumbly material that’s long been used for disposable cups, coolers and plates was adopted last June by the County Commission. But the county agreed to delay enforcement for a year before joining Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and other cities in banning the generic component of Styrofoam, polystyrene.

Miami-Dade’s lag time was to give park employees time to spread the word on the looming rule taking effect Saturday, July 1 — an effort limited by a provision that the county not spend any additional dollars on the ban.

“We did some signs,” said Victoria Galan, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade parks. “But we did mostly [free] media. Because we didn’t have a budget for it.”

Banning Styrofoam has sparked a statewide battle between retailers and restaurants that use it, and environmental advocates who see it as a top source of litter and a hazard. Coral Gables earlier this year beat back a court challenge of its ban on polystyrene take-out containers. Florida had passed a law restricting local governments from broad Styrofoam bans, and a judge ruled in the City Beautiful’s favor, saying it had implemented its rule early enough to avoid the state restrictions.

Miami-Dade’s ban, sponsored by Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, was crafted to comply with the state law, since it only applies to county-owned land.

Polystyrene “breaks down into infinitesimal pieces and looks like food for fish,” Levine Cava said. “And it won’t go away.”

The new rules prohibit use of polystyrene in any county park, a portfolio that includes marinas, beaches and parkland covering roughly 13,500 acres. Galan said anyone entering a park with Styrofoam on Saturday will be asked to surrender the item or leave with it. (Returning Styrofoam to a parked car is fine, she said.)

Park workers will have cards explaining the new rules. While violators can face a $50 fine, parks workers rarely issue citations and Galan said the aim is to remove polystyrene from the area. “It’s about changing people’s behavior,” she said.

Commissioner Javier Souto cast the lone No vote against the ban on June 7, 2016, saying the restrictions would hurt businesses that use Styrofoam. On Friday, he pointed to one big potential casualty.

“That’s the end of Cuban coffee in parks,” he said. “A colada is served in a Styrofoam cup. … I know it’s well intentioned, but we have to be careful.”

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