Miami-Dade County

Styrofoam ban coming to parks ... but what will happen to our Cuban coffee?

A cup made of polystyrene, the generic name for Styrofoam, makes it away across the sands of Crandon Park before a reporter deposited it in the trash. A proposed Miami-Dade law would ban polystyrene from county parks like Crandon.
A cup made of polystyrene, the generic name for Styrofoam, makes it away across the sands of Crandon Park before a reporter deposited it in the trash. A proposed Miami-Dade law would ban polystyrene from county parks like Crandon. dhanks@miamiherald.com

Miami-Dade parks will ban all Styrofoam coolers, cups, plates and to-go containers under an ordinance passed Tuesday by county commissioners, despite last-minute concerns that the new rules might complicate the serving of Cuban coffee.

The ban, which takes effect in a year, adds Miami-Dade to a growing list of governments, including Miami Beach and Key Biscayne, that have enacted similar restrictions to cut down on litter from the lightweight but crumbly material. While the proposed ordinance by sponsor Daniella Levine Cava drew just one no vote, there was a brief flurry of concern when a fellow commissioner noted the need for a certain kind of disposable cup for Miami’s signature beverage.

“In Miami-Dade County, we drink a lot of coffee,” said Commissioner Rebeca Sosa. “The only way we can drink the Cuban coffee, the colada, is with a crystal cup or Styrofoam.” Plastic cups, she said, just melt.

Levine Cava said paper cups work just as well, and the debate never got beyond a simmer. It was the latest objection raised in an extended discussion for a law that bans Styrofoam’s generic component, polystyrene, from park properties. That portfolio includes county-run marinas, beaches, trails and playing fields.

One sympathetic commissioner, Sally Heyman, praised the ban but asked for coolers to be exempt because they’re so handy and easier to spot than, say, a stray discarded cup. Sosa also raised concerns that the county’s poorest residents turn to Styrofoam because it’s cheaper than plastic. Javier Souto, the lone no vote, objected to leaving local businesses with Styrofoam products to sell but a county government prohibiting them from nearby parks and beaches.

“You have a store. You have a hundred coolers there. We pass this,” Souto said. “You swallow that loss? Any way to give them a break?”

No changes were made to accommodate commissioners, though officials from Parks, which endorsed the proposed ordinance, will report back on implementation details later this summer.

The proposed ban did get weaker on its way to passage Tuesday. Levine Cava dropped the fine from $100 to $50 and eliminated a higher penalty for repeat offenders. The ban won’t go into effect until July 1, 2017, which is 30 days later than in the original proposal. Miami-Dade plans to use the year before implementation to spread the word on the impending ban.

Levine Cava said the Parks Department only issued about a dozen tickets last year, making the issue of fines and citations more of a theoretical discussion.

“The intent here is not to collect money,” she said, “but to have compliance.”

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