On the Beach
According to Keep Sarasota County Beautiful, 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. Polystyrene, in particular, breaks down into tiny pieces easy for wildlife to ingest.
Seventy-two percent of 142 deceased washback loggerhead turtle hatchlings had synthetic debris inside them—60 percent plastic and 4 percent foam pieces, according to a 2015 Mote Marine study.
On Jan. 1, 2020, all 45 of the city’s sidewalk cafés must stop using plastic straws and polystyrene (usually Styrofoam) containers. The seven food service providers that lease city land also need to follow the ordinance, as will every vendor at special events held within city limits.
Already on Board
Sixty percent of all city businesses were not using polystyrene products as of July 2019; 45 percent of city businesses had already implemented an “upon request” straw policy as of July 2019. Twenty-six percent already offer alternatives to plastic straws.
Businesses cannot provide any type of straw unless specifically requested by a customer. The city wants to ensure that patrons with disabilities have straws for drinking.
A city study found that making the move from polystyrene containers to a paper product could cost businesses up to 10 cents more per product. “Styrofoam is the cheapest product, so there could be a financial impact,” says Stevie Freeman-Montes, the city’s sustainability manager. However, she adds, providing straws only upon request and a trend toward customers bringing their own takeout containers could provide savings.
The new ordinance will take effect in a phased approach. Sidewalk café businesses must begin following the ordinance on Jan. 1, 2020; for those who hold special event permits the ban begins on Aug. 19, 2020; and for those who lease city-owned land on the date their lease renews.