The Museum of Ice Cream is a roving pop-up that’s been notable for serving as a playpen for Instagrammers and... er, not much else considering its $38 admission fee. It first opened in New York in 2016 before stretching its tentacles to such cities as Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Museum positions itself as a collection of installations, though it’s been likened to something more like an enlarged funhouse by its critics. One of its prime attractions is the Sprinkle Pool, a room with a pit of plastic (read: inedible) sprinkles.
The Museum's Miami location opened last month, and it's now the recipient of three hefty fines amounting to $5,000 issued by the city of Miami Beach, as the Miami New Times reported last week. Turns out those "sprinkles" pose some gnarly environmental hazards.
In late December, a week after the Museum’s Miami branch had opened, Dave Doebler, co-founder of non-profit VolunteerCleanup.org, had been tipped off by a fellow environmental activist that the sprinkles had landed outside the museum, littering the surrounding streets. Doebler went to investigate on his own and documented his findings in a video he posted to YouTube.
The plastic, Doebler noted, could very well cruise straight into storm drains when it rains. The runoff from those drains is discharged into the Biscayne Bay, posing a risk to marine life. These are animals who may be duped into thinking this fake food is real and, thus, die upon ingesting the plastic. Doebler mailed his findings to his contacts at the city’s code department along with the Museum.
"I am extremely pleased with the city's response and their communications with the Museum's top management to collaborate," he wrote MUNCHIES over email on Friday. "I am confident that the city and code will continue enforcement to protect our bay."
The city issued a courtesy notice to the Museum on December 22, followed by a $1,000 fee to the Museum the day after Christmas, spokeswoman Melissa Berthier confirmed to MUNCHIES over email on Friday. The trouble didn’t end there; the Museum was hit with two more fines on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, both $2,000 each.
“The city has been in contact with the Museum of Ice Cream daily since the sprinkle issue was brought to our attention late last month,” Berthier wrote MUNCHIES. “We have been regularly inspecting the location, and will continue to do so in order to ensure that plastic debris remains free from our streets and waterways.”
Berthier indicated to MUNCHIES that the Museum had been generally compliant with its orders, taking measures that have included hiring a cleaning crew, vacuuming stray sprinkles, installing checkpoints within the premises where attendees could rid themselves of any sprinkles, and reworking the floor plan of the Museum entirely so that the Sprinkle Pool would now be near the beginning of the museum rather than the end. She also noted that the city’s Public Works Department had installed mesh catchers within storm drains near the property to capture sprinkles and prevent them from entering waterways.
In an email to MUNCHIES on Monday night, a spokesperson for the Museum of Ice Cream claimed that it values sustainability. “We take our role very seriously as a public-facing entity and aim to inspire and position ourselves as a brand who greatly understands our social responsibility and cultural presence,” the spokesperson wrote MUNCHIES, noting that the Museum was in the process of creating a biodegradable sprinkle that will be "implemented in the near future."
To Doebler, though, the Museum isn't doing quite enough. He claimed he has only received "general plans" from the Museum regarding mitigation rather than any timelines or specifics. Doebler also noted that the Museum had run into this problem in other cities, such as San Francisco, yet purposely brought the problem to Miami.
"The final solution is really simple," Doebler wrote to MUNCHIES. "The Museum just needs to make real sprinkles. If they're concerned about people eating them, then make them taste bad."
This story was updated on January 9, 2018 to include additional information provided by the Museum of Ice Cream.