By Cathy Carter
A proposal to ban polystyrene products, commonly known as Styrofoam, and to limit the use of plastic straws is moving forward in the city of Sarasota with a public hearing scheduled for Monday night.
City commissioners voted in March to direct staff to draft an ordinance that would ban the use of polystyrene on public property in an effort to reduce the amount of plastics entering local waterways. At the time, plastic straws were not included because of a bill moving through the state legislature.
That issue was resolved in May, when Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed a measure that would have preempted local governments from enacting such bans.
Last month, officials from Sarasota's Office of Sustainability came back to the commission asking for direction on including single-use plastic straws. The board unanimously voted to include language in the ordinance allowing for a ban on the use of plastic straws unless a customer specifically requests one. The measure would ban single-use plastic products in city buildings, events, sidewalks and on properties in which private entities lease space from the city.
According to Keep Sarasota County Beautiful International Coast Cleanup data, 1,562 foam take-out containers, 12,379 plastic pieces, 6,649 plastic straws, and 6,192 plastic bags were picked up on local beaches between 2013 and 2017, posing a direct threat to marine life.
Several local groups including Rethinking Plastic Sarasota and the Suncoast Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation have taken to social media to encourage members to attend the public hearing which is scheduled to take place during Monday’s regular Sarasota City Commission meeting at Sarasota City Hall.
Sarasota’s move to ban polystyrene follows other cities enacting similar bans, including St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, and Miami Beach.