Florida Legislator Proposes Ban On Plastic Straw... Bans

The bill would prevent any local government from banning the straws until at least 2024.
March 7, 2019, 3:33pm
straws in a cup
Photo: Alex Brown

Yesterday, Ariana Grande and Starbucks announced the arrival of their cloud-inspired, Ariana-stanning Cloud Macchiato with a series of emoji-heavy tweets and a photoset of an apron-wearing Grande sipping on the iced version. She soon retweeted two of her followers, one who said that the macchiato “does indeed slap,” and another who wrote “metal straws is [sic] a yes!”

Some responses to her retweet turned into mini-debates about metal straws, reusable cups, and single-use plastics. There were also a lot of references to the ocean. In an increasing number of cities and states, using a plastic straw is interpreted as the equivalent of force-feeding trash to a sea turtle—but the state of Florida is currently proposing a temporary ban on plastic straw bans.

Republican state senator Travis Hutson originally proposed a bill that would’ve prevented restaurants from using plastic straws unless a customer asked for one. But because, uh, Florida, Hutson has since changed his mind, amending the bill to include a Department of Environmental Protection-led study on straws, and it would also prevent any local government from banning the straws until at least 2024.

"I realized that I was kind of putting my own thoughts into this [...] it was government overreach," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "So what I did was file an amendment that would put a moratorium but give us a study.”

Hutson’s bill also says that any city that tries to enforce a straw ban before 2024 will be fined $25,000, and will also have to cover the winning side’s attorneys’ fees during the inevitable civil lawsuit that would follow.

Unsurprisingly, his plan is going just great with environmental groups. “At this point we don’t need a study,” the Surfrider Foundation’s Holly Parker Curry told the Gainesville Sun. “We need action.” And it seems like the Department of Environmental Protection has pretty much made up its mind too: It already has its own Skip the Straw campaign in place, complete with sad-eyed cartoon otters.

“Plastic straws are one of the many single-use plastics that litter beaches, pollute oceans and harm wildlife. To preserve natural resources and keep Florida’s environment free of pollutants, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection encourages Florida residents and visitors to reduce their plastic use and ‘Skip the Straw,’” the agency says. “If every person in Florida took this pledge, we could together reduce pollution from plastic straws by approximately 2.35 million.” (So, it seems like you might already have your study, Travis.)

Hutson says that part of the reason why he amended the bill is that he’s “just not a fan of government on the state or local level telling a business what to do”—although the current version seems to sort of tell businesses that they can’t not offer straws either.

In addition to the straw ban ban, Senate Bill 588 would also prohibit local governments from banning sunscreens that contain chemicals that have been shown to harm coral reefs. Jesus, Travis. What did sea turtles do to you, man?