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City commission to discuss polystyrene ban on city property

BY JENNIFER CABRERA / SEPTEMBER 4, 2019

The Gainesville City Commission agenda for September 5 has an item titled “Single-Use Plastics Discussion.” The agenda also includes the first reading of the repeal of the previously-passed ordinance “Relating to the Prohibition of Single-Use Carry Out Plastic Bags and Expanded Polystyrene Containers.”

After an appeals court struck down the law banning plastic bags and polystyrene containers in Coral Gables, the city commission reluctantly decided to repeal their own ordinance, which was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020. However, during the discussion, Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said that the city should look at ordinances “like Orlando and a few other places have done on city property, because we can—under state law—prohibit polystyrene on city property and vendors and lessees and things like that.”

The backup for the meeting includes a Florida model ordinance, which includes the prohibition of all “Polystyrene Foam Food Ware,  Polystyrene Foam coolers, ice chests, or similar containers that are not wholly encapsulated or encased within a more durable material” in public parks.

Penalties include a written warning, which can be followed by fines of $100 for a first violation (after the warning), $200 for a second violation, and $500 for subsequent violations within a 12-month period.

This could mean, for example, that anyone who buys a drink from many fast-food restaurants or convenience stores and then carries that drink into a public park could be fined (after being warned the first time). The ban could also potentially apply to the possession of other single-use plastics like bags, plastic utensils, plastic cups/lids, and straws on city property (although the distribution of straws will be banned in Gainesville after January 1, 2020, that law will not apply to the possession of straws).

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It remains to be seen whether Gainesville will model its ordinance after Orlando’s, which says, “Single-use products may not be sold or disbursed on City property by City contractors or permittees” or on the model ordinance, which prohibits “any person” from possessing these products on city property.

Photo credit: Aaron “tango” Tang

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