Leon County Commissioners vote to self-regulate on single-use plastic straws

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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 10, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Leon County is taking action on single-use plastic straws.

On May 10, Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed House Bill 771, which would have prohibited local governments from regulating single-use plastic straws until July 1, 2024. Due to this veto, Florida municipalities can create plans to regulate single-use plastic straws.

The County voted six to one, directing staff to expand public education outreach and develop policies to prohibit the sale or distribution of plastic straws and Styrofoam on County property or at County events.

County staff will also research the effects of a possible full prohibition, to be discussed at a later date.

County Commissioner Jimbo Jackson said, "it's important that we be the model as an organization in Leon County.

Fellow Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley agreed, saying she wants to salute the local businesses who are already making the moves to stop distributing single-use plastic straws.

Commissioner Kristin Dozier wants to explore a recognition program for businesses who eliminate single-use plastics, and hopes to create that program jointly with the City.

Some worried about affecting local businesses, especially after the recent closure of multiple restaurants.

"I draw a line in the sand when we start mandating what businesses can and cannot do," said Commissioner Bryan Desloge.

Commissioner Dozier acknowledged the small margin of profit for restaurants, and the struggles some face when trying to phase out cheap plastics that are detrimental to the environment.

She suggested the possibility of creating a joint purchasing group to allow businesses to purchase biodegradable items together in bulk.

County Commissioner Bill Proctor was the sole vote against the measure, saying there are other plastics, such as garbage can liners, which can cause more issues than straws do. He also questioned the County's ability to enforce the measure.

Commissioner Rick Minor brought metal straws for the other commissioners to the meeting. He also spoke with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association earlier in the day; the official position of that organization encourages businesses to provide straws on a "request-only" basis.

Minor, Lindley, and Dozier all reiterated the importance of including those with disabilities in the conversation, because metal or paper straws may not be an option for them to use.

Tackling the environmental issue of plastic straws fits with the County's missions stated in the FY2017 to FY2021 Strategic Initiatives and the 5 Year Targets.

Those include goals of developing strategies to increase recycling and reuse rates, developing an action plan to further reduce the County government's carbon footprint, and reach a 75% community recycling rate.

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