There are 132 cities and counties in the United States that ban the use of plastic bags in retail stores. State Senator Dwight Bullard would love to add Florida to that list. Unfortunately, Florida has a ban on banning plastic bags.
This has been the case since 2008, when the Florida legislature restricted local governments’ ability to enact plastic bag laws. In 2010, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed guidelines for regulating plastic, but the state has yet to act on them.
Title 29, Chaper 403, Section 7033 of Florida law states:
“Until such time that the Legislature adopts the recommendations of the [DEP], no local government, local governmental agency, or state government agency may enact any rule, regulation, or ordinance regarding use, disposition, sale, prohibition, restriction, or tax of such auxiliary containers, wrappings, or disposable plastic bags.”
What does this mean for cities like Miami Beach whose shores are littered with plastic bags? It means they’re going to stay that way. Senator Bullard has tried twice to introduce a bill to the Florida legislature that would remove the prohibition against plastic bag bans. To offset the cost of removing plastic from retailers, he has also included a 10-cent fee for paper bags. This is where the senator has hit opposition.
Retailers do not want to shoulder the extra cost. Florida Retail Federation member Samantha Padgett sees the plastic ban and Bullard’s 10-cent tax as unnecessary. “We have a public information campaign that tells people where they can take plastic bags to recycle,” she says, adding that plastic bags are useful materials in the “green building market.”
Meanwhile, trash is building up on Florida’s beaches. “I can’t go to the beach anymore because I end up cleaning up,” says Dave Doebler, a member of Miami Beach’s Sustainability Committee. “Last week, we pulled 800 pounds of trash off the shoreline during one of our beach cleanups. It’s not just Miami Beach either. It’s all over, in Biscayne Bay, and all up and down the coast.”
Discarded plastic bags can clog waterways, sewer and flood control systems, and provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Globally, the United Nations estimates that plastic causes $13 billion in financial damages to marine ecosystems every year.