Miami Beach

To curb pollution, Miami Beach bans plastic straws and stirrers citywide

Miami Beach has expanded its ban on plastic straws and stirrers to include all restaurants and retailers.

Commissioners gave unanimous final approval Wednesday to the ban that aims to reduce plastic pollution in the city’s storm drain system and on the beach.

“Every move we make to strengthen our litter laws citywide significantly reduces the amount of litter and pollutants on land and in the water,” said Mayor Dan Gelber in a statement. “Protecting both our natural environment and wildlife is a priority for our city and a cause we will never stop fighting for.”

More than 120 businesses have voluntarily agreed to stop using plastic straws as part of a city-sponsored campaign.

The full ban will be phased in to give businesses time to learn the new regulation and make adjustments. Full enforcement will begin in July 2020. Those who violate the ordinance will be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $500 for the third.

Some business owners have complained that alternatives to plastic, such as paper straws, are expensive and not sturdy enough to satisfy consumers. The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association has stated that businesses can struggle to find a reliable supply of alternative products.

Proponents of the ban point out that during community beach cleanups, plastic straws are among the most commonly found items. The resilience committee of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce supports the expanded ban.

City officials said they plan to spend the next several months educating retailers, restaurants and hoteliers on the new law, as well as helping proprietors identify alternative products. Restaurants will still be permitted to give plastic straws to people who have a disability that makes paper alternatives impractical. Restaurants and stores with annual incomes under $500,000 can apply for a waiver if they can prove the move away from plastic would cause a financial hardship.

The Beach has gradually limited plastic straws in the city in recent years. The prohibition began in public parks, sidewalk cafes and beaches. The city also has a ban on polystyrene (such as Styrofoam) products — a measure that is grandfathered in under state law.

Other cities have recently chosen to roll back bans on plastics and polystyrene to avoid costly legal battles. The city of Coral Gables has fought in court to preserve its own plastic bag ban. Because of the legal questions, the Beach is holding back on implementation of a plastic bag ban.

Related stories from Miami Herald