Paper straws are an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic straws. Sanibel is among 10 cities in Florida with a plastic straw ban that lawmakers have voted to prohibit for five years. SC photo by Chuck Larsen Photography
Paper straws are an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic straws. Sanibel is among 10 cities in Florida with a plastic straw ban that lawmakers have voted to prohibit for five years. SC photo by Chuck Larsen Photography

The Florida Senate passed an environmental bill Tuesday, April 30, that includes prohibiting local governments from enforcing regulations on plastic straws over the next five years.

Currently, Sanibel is one of 10 cities across the state to have rules governing the use of plastic straws, which have drawn environmental concerns. Council unanimously approved the ordinance in September 2018 and the conservation-focused organization Coastal Keepers has reported a decrease in the number of plastic straws littering our beaches since the ordinance went into effect.

We believe it is important to stand up for our rights as a community to practice good ocean stewardship,” stated Coastal Keepers, which also advocates the use of reusable bags instead of plastic. “Eliminating single-use disposable plastics is a simple and effective approach.”

Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife Medical and Research Director Dr. Heather Barron says the point should be about training the public in doing away with single-use plastics. Plastic pollution, as a whole, hurts wildlife, human life and the environment. Barron pointed to ingestion of plastics by wildlife; its slow degradation; the loss of or damage to wildlife habitat; and the health risks to humans from toxins when plastic breaks down.

Under House Bill 771, the research arm of the Legislature would be required to conduct a study of “each ordinance or regulation adopted” by local governments related to plastic straws. Rather than focusing on the environmental impacts of local bans, the study would focus on the “data and conclusions” used in adopting local ordinances.

This has irritated environmental organizations, such as the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, which argue sufficient evidence already exists that plastic pollution is detrimental to the environment. SCCF is calling for citizens to urge Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the bill.

This regulation is a giant step backward by forcing the use of wasteful, polluting and harmful single-use plastics,” stated SCCF in its call to action. “HB 771 is an assault on local governments’ ability to address the needs of its citizens by preempting already existing or future local ordinances.”

DeSantis has seven days following the bill’s presentation to him to sign or veto it. However, should legislature adjourn sine die or take a recess of more than 30 days on or during that seven-day period, the governor has 15 days from the date of presentation to act on the bill.