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
Annual number of plastic bags used in the U.S.
Annual number used globally
Amount of plastic that isn't recycled
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.
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