Miami Beach Fines 15 Businesses for Selling Styrofoam in First Week of Ban

Is it possible? Just plain wrong? Sacrilege? You can no longer get a colada in Miami Beach in a Styrofoam cup. 

At David's Cafe, the iconic Cuban restaurant at Ninth Street and Alton Road that's been a staple for more than four decades, the coffee is now served in tan paper cups.

At the Publix in North Beach, there are only plastic cafecito cups.

Miami Beach's ban on Styrofoam went into effect a week ago, and the city hasn't wasted any time enforcing the new rules. David's and the Publix at 69th Street and Collins Avenue are among 15 businesses already slapped with a $50 fine for selling Styrofoam. They apparently got the message. By the end of the week, there was no sign of the now-illegal product at either location.

Miami Beach claims to be the first city in Florida to enact a citywide ban on polystyrene, a notorious pollutant that takes hundreds of years to decompose. It began two years ago by prohibiting Styrofoam on beaches and in parks before phasing in the ban everywhere else.

City spokeswoman Melissa Berthier says the "beauty" of barring businesses from selling Styrofoam is that now there will be no misunderstanding the fact it is not allowed in the city. "In the past, maybe you bought a Styrofoam cooler and went to beach and didn't realize it was illegal, but now you can no longer find them in the stores," she says. "It's the same with getting coffee — how many people had cafecitos in Styrofoam cups? That's no longer happening in Miami Beach. Or we're hoping it's not."

This week, code-compliance officers have been visiting businesses. The city is also encouraging residents to snitch on Styrofoam offenders by calling 305-604-CITY or visiting the city's app. It wasn't immediately clear how many reports have come in.
 The fine for selling the illicit product is $50 for first-time offenders. By the third time, the penalty spikes to $500. 

Besides Publix and David's, businesses busted so far are:
  • Taste Bakery, 900 Alton Rd.
  • Groovy's Pizza, 332 Lincoln Rd.
  • 7-Eleven, 350 Lincoln Rd.
  • Miami Grill, 1541 Washington Ave.
  • Vemar Market, 1553 Washington Ave.
  • Art Deco Supermarket, 1435 Washington Ave.
  • Los Perros, 1427 Alton Rd.
  • Pinecrest Bakery, 1511 Alton Rd.
  • The Nerguiz Group, Inc., 2603 Collins Ave.
  • Miami Beach Food Stores, 1300 Lincoln Rd., C-1A
  • Starlight Hotels and Apartments, 750 Ocean Dr.
  • Safron, 1049 Washington Ave.
After Miami Beach's ban was imposed, the state decided to step in with a ban of its own: It barred local governments from instituting any new, wide-scale Styrofoam bans. Still, the Miami-Dade County Commission agreed in June to prohibit Styrofoam from county parks beginning next year.

The measure passed with only one no vote, but several concerns were raised, including that the ban would hurt poor residents the most and that small businesses would be negatively affected. Notably, Commissioner Rebeca Sosa worried about the effect on Miami's signature drink.

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