Florida senator takes aim at plastic bags, straws

Bill would ban food businesses from selling single-use straws, bags

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Amid a broader national debate about the issue, a Democratic Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would prevent grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses that sell food from using plastic carryout bags and providing single-use plastic straws.

Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, filed the proposal (SB 502) for consideration during the legislative session that starts March 5.

The proposed bans would carry $500 fines for first-time violators and $1,000 fines for subsequent violations.

Similar proposals have popped up in various parts or the country in recent years, at least in part because discarded plastic bags and straws are blamed for damaging marine life.

Jessica Gott, the founder and CEO of North Florida Coastal Caretakers, said they see a wide variety of plastics during their beach and river clean-ups including bags and straws. 

In 2016, they collected 250 bags during five beach cleanups. 

Gott said a statewide ban would help protect marine life and the environment. 

“The main problem is that plastic can be ingested,” Gott said. “Plastic bags, for example, look very similar to jellyfish, which sea turtles feed on. So, if they’re ingesting the plastic and are not digesting it, their body thinks they’re full.”

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