Florida bill would override prohibition on local bans for plastic bags

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(The Center Square) — A Florida lawmaker is hoping a new bill recently filed will bring about an end to plastic bags and other single-use plastics if passed.

Senate Bill 498 is sponsored by state Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando. It would amend two Florida statutes and remove the preemption of local laws regarding the regulation of containers, wrappings, or plastic bags.

The bill would also remove local laws regarding the use or sale of polystyrene products to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Current Florida laws that would change if the bill passes say that the Legislature finds the regulation of recyclable materials crucial to the ongoing welfare of Florida’s natural habitats and its economy. The Department of Environmental Protection was statutorily tasked to review and update its 2010 report on retail plastic bags, and whether there is a need to change the regulation of single-use plastic from retail establishments.

The Department released its updated report in December 2021 and stated that during 2020 there were around 47 million tons of municipal solid waste collected in Florida. While 42% of this waste was recycled, 50% ended up in landfills. The study found that between 11.7% and 13.6% of the solid waste collected was made up of single-use plastics.

The report notes that while most end up in landfills or combusted in waste-to-energy facilities, a good portion becomes environmental litter. It further stated that single-use plastics have hurt wildlife and the environment, especially in waterways and along coastlines.

In a survey conducted for the report, local governments, residents, retailers, manufactures, and recycling facilities were asked if they believe that regulation is necessary for disposable plastics: 97% of local government agreed; as well as 67% of retailers, 93% of local residents, 100% of recycling facilities, and 25% of manufacturers.

While a large number agreed that these plastics should be regulated, there was a significant difference in whether they thought that these regulations would help.

NBC Miami reported on November 17, that there is growing concern that plastic bags are thwarting recycling efforts, with Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava telling the outlet that “plastic bags are the enemy of our recycling program.”

Stewart filed an identical bill during the 2023 regular session, SB 498, but it died during its first round of committee hearings.

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