Last week, City of Sarasota commissioners unanimously voted to move forward with an ordinance that prohibits the use and distribution of single-use drinking straws and polystyrene containers on city-owned land, properties and rights of way, including at special event and sidewalk cafes. (Drinking straws would still be available for those who specifically request them.) During the commission’s meeting, and at four previous presentations introducing the ordinance, city sustainability manager Stevie Freeman-Montes outlined the impact single-use plastics have on our region and the way in which this new ordinance will affect businesses. According to Keep Sarasota County Beautiful cleanup data, 6,649 straws, 1,562 polystyrene containers, 6,192 plastic bags and 12,379 “plastic pieces” were found on local beaches from 2013-2017, posing direct threats to marine life.
If approved at the August city commission meeting, the ordinance will go into effect for sidewalk café permittees on January 1, 2020; for special events in August 2020; and for those with lease agreements with the city (in other words, those that lease facilities on public land), it will go into effect whenever the lease agreement is renewed, which varies.