Reducing plastic bag use in Miami Beach

Sustainability

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Reducing plastic bag use in Miami Beach:

sustainability committee suggests ordinance for sidewalk cafés

While Coral Gables challenges Florida law prohibiting municipalities from regulating the use of plastic bags at the local level, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco wants to try a different tack. Earlier this week, Coral Gables Commissioners unanimously approved a ban on single use, carry out plastic bags.
 
Both Grieco and Deputy City Attorney Eve Boutsis expressed admiration for the creativity of the argument being made by Coral Gables, but they were skeptical the City would prevail. While waiting to see what happens, Grieco proposed something a little more modest as a first step for Miami Beach. “I think they’re being very creative,” Grieco said, “but I think their law is going to fall under the current state pre-emption which is why we’re not going down that road.” Instead, he floated an idea with members of the Commission’s Sustainability and Resiliency Committee: incorporating the elimination of plastic bags as a condition for obtaining sidewalk café permits.
 
He acknowledged the cafés are only a small source of the plastic bag problem, “CVS, Walgreens, Publix … those are the biggest contributors.” But it would “at least be step one,” he said.  “All the restaurants that have tables on our city right of way, I’m interested in seeing us make it a condition” of getting sidewalk café permits. He said there would need to be a ramp up time. “I know we will get pushback just like we did with the Styrofoam [ban], but I think that we should be able to do whatever we can do within our power. This would impact Ocean Drive sidewalk cafés, Lincoln Road, any restaurant that has a table or chair on our right of way. It’s our property. We should be able to dictate how it’s handled.”
 
The Committee asked City staff to come back with a recommended ordinance.
 
In the meantime, Commissioner John Alemán suggested the City’s communication team could come up with a “Say no to the bag" campaign. She said she has become much more aware of her own plastic usage and is cutting back. A campaign might encourage others to give up bags voluntarily, she added. Staff will report back on the suggestion.

Photo: Heath Doman

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