Lawmakers will get another chance to debate the pros and cons of allowing local governments to enact and study the efficacy of toothless local restrictions on single-use plastics.
Doral Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez this week refiled a proposal (SB 698) that would enable coastal communities to establish pilot programs limiting single-use plastic products.
The measure defines coastal communities as municipalities with fewer than 500,000 residents abutting the ocean or other saltwater bodies.
If passed, SB 698 would allow localities to adopt ordinances on or after July 1, 2024, regulating the use of ubiquitous polyethylene grocery bags, polypropylene straws and other use-it-and-toss-it plastic products.
However, any such ordinance may not include new taxes or fees tied to the products’ use or disposal.
Rodriguez’s bill, filed Tuesday, is essentially identical to legislation she and Islamorada Rep. Jim Mooney carried during the 2023 Session. Neither received a committee hearing, and Mooney pulled his bill from consideration before the end of Session.
The measure would require any participating local government to collect data on the effectiveness and impact of regulating single-use plastics and collate its findings in a report. That report would be due to the municipality’s governing body by May 1, 2027, and be included at a publicly advertised meeting at which the public can provide feedback.
By June 30, 2027, the date on which the pilot program would expire, the municipality would have to provide a copy of the report to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Of note, the measure would also require DEP to produce a report of its own on the subject, with input from state and local government agencies, stakeholders, private businesses and citizens, beginning in 2028 and every five years thereafter.
Referred to sometimes as “eternal plastics,” disposable bags and straws can have extremely long life cycles and cause serious environmental problems starting with the extraction of fossil fuels used to make them to their effects on human and animal life.
Lawmakers have tried for years to reduce single-use plastics in Florida. Representatives of the Sierra Club told Florida Politics in May that the lack of progress is due to opposition from the petrochemical industry.
The last time a proposed plastic bag pilot program received a hearing was in 2017, according to Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen, and the only people with appearance cards against the bill were representatives of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Retail Federation and Associated Industries of Florida.
One state with which Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly compares Florida, California, passed legislation last year mandating that by 2023, all single-use plastic packaging and food service materials must be recyclable or compostable.
It also mandates a 25% reduction in the sale of plastic packaging and for 65% of single-use plastic packaging to be recycled.
Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and, most recently, Colorado have all passed legislation banning disposable bags.
Florida Politics contacted Rodriguez for comment but received none by press time.