Paper or Plastic?

by | Nov 30, 2017

It’s a question you get asked every time you go through a checkout line.

Paper or plastic?

But, if one Central Florida lawmaker has her way that question could become a moot point in some local communities.  

State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, wants to give state agencies and local governments the authority to ban plastic bags. Stewart has unveiled legislation that would repeal the current prohibition on state and local entities from enacting regulations on the bags.

“As long as these prohibitions remain on the books, improperly discarded plastic materials will continue to impact Florida’s wildlife, marine life, landfill operation, and flood control systems because proactive regulations cannot be implemented,” said Stewart. “We need each city and county to act as they see fit and allow home rule to be reestablished.”

In 2008, the Legislature prohibited local governments from regulating plastic bags until a study could be conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection on whether there is a need to change the regulation of items such as containers, wrappings and disposable plastic bags.

DEP produced a report in 2010 on the “efficacy and necessity” of such items and highlighted various sets of policy options. The report was presented to the Legislature which has yet to act on the study.

While Sen. Stewart tries to change the law, one Florida city is hoping to strike down the prohibition in the courts.

In May, Coral Gables ignored the state ban and became the first city in Florida to prohibit the use of carryout plastic bags.

Coral Gables’ city leaders enacted the plastic bag prohibition following a court ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Florida Retail Federation challenging the city’s ban on Styrofoam. The federation argued the state’s plastic bag statute preempted the city’s authority to enact the Styrofoam ban.

The judge in that case ruled the Legislature’s failure to act on the 2010 report left local governments in “indefinite limbo.”

“The Legislature was given the report in 2010 and, to date, none of the recommendations contained therein have been adopted,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto wrote in his ruling.

Based on that ruling, the city of Coral Gables decided to move forward with a ban on plastic bags.
The federation has appealed the judge’s decision in the Styrofoam ban case to the Third District Court of Appeal. That case is still pending.

Coral Gables officials are confident they will  prevail in that case. Given the Legislature has yet to act on DEP’ report and recommendations in seven years, the courts may be the best option for those who wish to give local governments the choice on whether to ban plastic bags and other containers.



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