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Sarasota Looks To Ban Styrofoam In Public Places

A man and woman picking up trash
Jason Bartolone
Sarasota’s sustainability staff introduced a proposal to limit plastic pollution, specifically polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam.";

The City of Sarasota is moving forward with a ban on single-use polystyrene products, commonly known as Styrofoam, in public spaces.

The city’s commissioners voted last week to draft an ordinance that would ban the use of the plastics on public property, including at special events, city facilities and sidewalk cafes. It will also consider adopting language that bans businesses who lease property from the city from using the products. 

“We wanted to approach this from an environmental point-of-view,” said Jeff Vredenburg, Sarasota’s sustainability program educator. “We live in a beautiful city right on the water. We wanted to prevent those items ending up in the water, so we brought some of those thoughts to the commission,”

Sarasota’s sustainability staff introduced a proposal to limit plastic pollution last month. After a long discussion about the reduction of single-use items, the city commission decided more research on the topic of polystyrene products was needed. 

The staff then came back last week with a more in-depth proposal that would enforce Styrofoam regulations on public property.

Once an ordinance banning the plastics is drafted, the commission will have to vote again to approve it. The public will have an opportunity to comment.

Before enforcement begins, there will be an education period allowing public input. Businesses will have the opportunity to learn about different types of products that could replace Styrofoam. They will also be warned of alternative products that sound good, but could have the same negative effect on the environment.

Vredenburg encourages local businesses and consumers to use reusable products that would benefit not only the environment, but their bank accounts.

“If you have your patrons come to your event with a reusable water bottle instead of paying for a Styrofoam cup for them to get water in, you’re not having to pay anything for that so they can actually save money,” said Vredenburg.

There’s also the possibility for grant partnerships for businesses making the switch.

“We also have identified some local organizations that might be willing to provide a grant for businesses who are going through that transition,” Vredenburg said.

In recent years, some Florida cities have experimented with banning various plastic products, including straws. For now, Sarasota is not considering a ban on straws, partially because a proposal in the state Senate would prevent local governments from banning single-use plastic straws.

Rachel Smith is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2019.