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Boca backs off plastic straw ban

A viral video shows a sea turtle with a straw up its nose. But even a song and dire statistics didn’t persuade council to consider a ban on plastic straws.

Nobody argued with councilwoman Monica Mayotte’s contention that “Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day… Plastic waste is washing up on our beaches and harming our environment.”

Calusa Elementary School students and speakers agreed something has to be done. Plastic pollution flies out of trash cans and trash trucks. It ends up in storm drains that flow into the Intracoastal, said Save Our Beaches president Jessica Gray. Plastic straws never degrade and release chemicals. They’re a detriment to marine life, she added.

“We’re using a temporary item that could last a thousand years. Toxins are consumed by fish,” the Sierra Club’s Drew Martin said at Monday’s council workshop.

“At our last beach cleaning, we found 753 straws in Spanish River Park in two hours,” said Ryan Dick.

Some hotel chains and local restaurants and coffee shops have stopped using plastic straws, Mayotte said. She urged people to carry reusable water bottles and shopping bags and refuse plastic straws.

But a video showed a disabled activist with a different viewpoint. “People need to use straws for cold and hot beverages,” she said. “Many people depend on caregivers.”

Mayor Scott Singer cited the cost to small businesses and the impact on tourism. “Would we reach into juice boxes with straws built in?” he said.

He prefers voluntary compliance and advocacy. Among his 16 proposals were water bottles and other items with city logos. “So we’re not one of 20 cities,” with a outright ban, he said. He also suggested signs at beaches and parks. He wants to expand the city’s voluntary compliance program for restaurants and reusable fresh water truck.

 “There’s a lot of businesses doing this on their own without the hammer of a ban,” said councilman Andy Thomson.

“We can lead by example,” said councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke.

Councilman Jeremy Rodgers wouldn’t support a ban. He liked the mayor’s ideas.

“You changed my mind about how we use plastics,” the mayor told Mayotte.

By Marci Shatzman

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