Miami-Dade Is Banning Styrofoam in Parks

Two years ago, Miami Beach banned Styrofoam from its city. Prohibiting the notoriously polluting material wasn't particularly controversial, with most local businesses telling reporters they didn't mind making the change to more compostable materials.

Well, Florida being Florida, the state Legislature found this simple eco-friendly move abhorrent. Earlier this year, Tallahassee forbade local governments from any new wide-scale Styrofoam bans

That doesn't mean local governments are without recourse, though. Last night, the Miami-Dade County Commission agreed to ban Styrofoam from all county parks beginning next summer. The ban at least protects some of Miami's tourist-friendliest areas from the hard-to-control refuse, supporters say.

"It's among the most common pollutants in the bay, and it's affecting our parks and also the animal life around our parks," Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, the bill's sponsor, said during last night's discussion. "The point here is to educate the public, to reduce the polystyrene trash in our parks, and to protect our parks and beaches."

Levine Cava's rule won't take effect until July 2017, giving the Parks Department time to educate the public on the ban. After that, getting caught with Styrofoam in county parks will carry a $50 fine.

Although the measure passed with just one no vote, there were a number of concerns raised in the meeting. Several commissioners argued the ban would hurt poor residents most.   

"They don't have money to buy plastic cups and plates because they cost a lot. They have a limited budget," Commissioner Rebecca Sosa argued. " I would like citation instead for improper disposal."

Others argued that small businesses that sell Styrofoam coolers and cups would be negatively affected. And most memorable, Sosa complained that Miami needed Styrofoam to properly enjoy its Cuban coladas

“The only way we can drink the Cuban coffee, the colada, is with a Crystal cup or Styrofoam,” she argued. 

But Levine Cava pointed out that paper cups work equally well for Cuban coffee and aren't notably more expensive. And Miami Beach's ban hasn't noticeably hurt local businesses or beachgoing residents. 

Either way, thanks to Tally's meddling, the county's ban falls well short of Miami Beach's universal prohibition on the troublesome material. But supporters say the move will at least protect parks. 

"The Florida Legislature prevented us from having a more comprehensive plan," Levine Cava said. "We can only control it in our parks." 
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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