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Polystyrene May Soon Be Banned From Florida Grocery Stores And Markets

Nikki Fried in Sarasota news conference
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Nikki Fried holds up a Styrofoam cup at a news conference at Siesta Key Beach

Nikki Fried says she will seek to phase out the use of a commonly used product that is blamed for one of the worst causes of ocean pollution.

Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Secretary Nikki Fried announced she will direct all grocery stores, markets, and convenience stores they regulate across the state to begin phasing out the use of polystyrene products.

She said the rulemaking process has begun.

According to a release, Fried said her department will hold workshops and seek input from the public along with industries and business experts.

Fried said there are numerous natural alternatives used to package foods, and studies have shown that chemicals in polystyrene foam might be linked to cancer and birth defects.

"They take more than 500 years to decompose," Fried said during a news conference at Siesta Key Beach. "And Styrofoam being an estimated 30 percent of our landfill space, polystyrene packaging may continue its negative impacts long after we throw it away."

Fried, who is running for governor, says her department is aiming at a 25% reduction in polystyrene use the first year — with polystyrene eliminated in stores and restaurants in five years.

Several cities and counties have tried to ban products like polystyrene in the past years, but have been shot down by Florida's pre-emption laws. This new law would be enacted by the state, however.

The ban could affect about 40,000 businesses.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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