Two More South Florida Cities, Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables, Limit Plastic Straws

You might as well go ahead and buy one of those fancy stainless-steel straws. Over the past year or so, cities across the nation have taken steps to limit plastic straws and stirrers out of concern for the environment. Now Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables are joining them.

Declaring plastic straws an "environmental blight," commissioners in Fort Lauderdale voted last Tuesday to prohibit the products' sale or distribution in businesses, city facilities, and permitted events. Gables commissioners, meanwhile, are taking a more conservative approach: They decided earlier this month to ban them from city facilities, parks, and permitted events and from use by city vendors and contractors. 

"Hundreds of millions of straws are dumped into the ocean every month," Coral Gables Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli says. "And they don't decompose, and they create a horrible mess in our ecosystem."

Americans use somewhere around 172 million straws each day. Littering and wind send some of them into the ocean, where they become a threat to sea life. Research shows 30 percent of turtles and 71 percent of seabirds have been found with plastic in their stomachs. A hard-to-watch video that went viral last year shows researchers struggling to pull a straw from the nostrils of a sea turtle.

That video, plus a campaign by the environmental group the Surfrider Foundation to make 2018 "the year we say goodbye to straws," helped stoke anti-straw fervor. Cities from Seattle to Surfside passed new regulations, and Miami Beach expanded one it already had on the books. Soon enough, Starbucks, Shake Shack, and other corporations were announcing they too would phase out plastic straws.

Of course, the movement is not without critics. Advocates for people with disabilities have called straw regulations ableist, saying the devices are essential for people with limited mobility. And some conservatives, resentful of the supposed government overreach, hilariously tried to own the libs by posting pictures of themselves sipping from straws — sometimes a bunch of straws all at once, because that'll show the snowflakes.    In Fort Lauderdale, one city commissioner, Robert McKinzie, was against the new rules. He said restaurants were already offering paper straws, and he mentioned the insane story of a St. Petersburg McDonald's customer who attacked an employee because he didn't get a straw.

"And I hate putting my lips on the glass," McKinzie complained, according to the Sun Sentinel

Both Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables (where the commission vote was unanimous) are initiating campaigns to let people know about the change. The new rules are set to go into effect in about six months.
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas