Rethinking Plastic Sarasota's goal is to educate the public about the effects of single-use plastic.

Image: Shutterstock

A global movement to rethink plastic is gaining ground. This summer, Ikea, Sea World and Royal Caribbean promised to ditch plastic straws and bags. Then Starbucks announced it would be phasing out those straws. Seattle also banned plastic straws and utensils in restaurants, and California is considering a statewide ban on some plastic products.

Florida’s Legislature has not jumped on the bandwagon. Influenced by the Florida Retail Federation, Florida lawmakers passed a 2008 law that prohibits local governments from banning plastic bags and containers, and later passed a 2016 law saying cities can’t ban plastic foam. Florida advocacy groups, however, are taking the lead, encouraging consumers and businesses to make changes on their own.

Rethinking Plastic Sarasota, founded by Jana Hoefling and Cat Dillard, holds quarterly meetings to educate the public about plastic consumption, reduction and legislation (the next meeting is Oct. 16). They’ve also launched an initiative called “Skip the Straw,” which encourages both restaurants and customers to forego plastic straws in their drinks. The group also works with local restaurants to help them rethink the way they package food. “Fifty percent of all plastic made is single-use,” Hoefling says.

What a Waste

380 billion 

Annual number of plastic bags used in the U.S.

1 trillion      

Annual number used globally

91 percent    

Amount of plastic that isn't recycled

8 million    

Annual number of metric tons of plastic that enter the ocean

What You Can Do

Ditch the Bad Five

Hoefling and Dillard say the best place to start is with reducing your use of plastic bags. Then add polystyrene clamshell containers; disposable cups, lids and plastic straws; plastic bottles; and plastic utensils to your hit list. (Hoefling and Dillard carry their own bags, silverware and a reusable collapsible cup.) Bring your own containers to stores with bulk bins and your own coffee cup to places like Starbucks. Some retailers offer small discounts for doing this.

Make Your Voice Heard 

Tell manufacturers, “Enough with the plastic,” especially for popular products.

Be Open to Alternatives

Alternatives exist for products packaged in plastic. Hoefling and Dillard suggest using spot remover bars instead of formulas in plastic bottles, for example, or shampoo bars instead of bottled hair products.  

Aim for an Empty Recycling Bin

A zero-waste lifestyle should be the goal. “We’ve been taught to think that recycling plastic is the answer. That used to be my goal—like, ‘Look how good I am! I’m recycling!’ But now my goal is to have an empty recycling bin, without any plastic,” says Hoefling.

Image: Shutterstock

Restaurants Skipping the Straw*

1812 Osprey | Blu Island Bistro | Blu Kouzina | Cask & Ale | Dry Dock Grill | Element | Eliza Ann’s Coastal Kitchen | Evie’s | Fins at Sharky’s | Gecko’s (6 restaurants) | Gulf Drive Cafe | Indigenous Restaurant | Jack Dusty | Kacey’s Seafood | Left Coast Seafood Co. | MADE Restaurant | Oasis Café | Pazzo Southside | Seafood Shack | Sharky’s on the Pier | SKOB | Snook Haven

* Participating restaurants as of Aug. 3, 2018

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