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County passes plastic straw ban

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

[Updated with the effective date of the ordinance.]

The Alachua County Commission has passed a plastic straw and stirrer ban for the unincorporated areas of the county. The law prohibits all beverage providers (whether the beverage is provided free of charge or sold) from offering any single-use plastic straw or stirrer. Like the City of Gainesville ordinance, there are exceptions, including an exception for “any person with a disability that requires or relies on same to consume beverages.”

Boxes of plastic straws can still be sold to customers for their personal use, and there are also exceptions for medical or dental facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Violation of this ordinance will result in a $250 penalty. 

Commissioner Mike Byerly was concerned that restaurants would use the disability accommodations as an excuse to “blow us off,” keep doing what they’ve always done, and hand out plastic straws. He said there is a “vanishingly-small” number of people who really need straws, and they could bring their own.

During public comment on the motion, Debbie Martinez told the Commission that, in her experience in Gainesville, all restaurants are complying with the law. 

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The commissioners discussed having a grace period that would allow restaurants to use their existing stocks of plastic straws and arrange for shipments of paper straws, but they decided not to add that language. The ordinance goes into effect on March 10.

We have spoken with employees at several restaurants in Gainesville, and almost all of them have gotten rid of all plastic straws because they’re concerned about being fined for even having them. 

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