By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – In June, the town of Surfside – with a population under 6,000 and sits just above Miami Beach – unanimously passed a ban of most single-use plastics. Now after threats from the Florida Retail Federation, commissioners are overturning the ban.
“I am very uncomfortable with the position that they’re putting us in because they’re on the right side of the law,” Surfside Mayor Daniel Dietch said last week. “We live in a coastal community, and it’s our responsibility to safeguard our community.”
The Florida Retail Federation is a lobbying group that represents big-box retailers such as Walmart, Publix and Target, and for some reason state law prohibits local municipalities from regulating plastic bags.
The Florida Retail Federation suggested it may file a lawsuit involving Surfside to overturn the ban. The group also threatened that Surfside would then be responsible for attorney’s fees, costs and damages from local taxpayers.
“This ordinance as enacted is unlawful, and we respectfully urge the Town to repeal it,” the federation’s letter stated.
In a town meeting on August 13th, Surfside commissioners initial vote to repeal the town’s plastic bag ban. Commissioner Tina Paul was the only lawmaker to vote against the repeal.
“You set an example if you step back,” Paul said. “That’s what they [the Florida Retail Federation] want — they want you to step back.”
According to Ocean Crusaders, shoppers worldwide are using an estimated 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year.
There are believed to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.
In June, Surfside commissioners passed the plastic ban on a 4-0 vote. The ban prohibited the use, sale, or distribution of single-use plastics in any commercial establishment or on town property, including the beach.
There were exceptions water bottles and prepackaged drinks already sold with straws. Medical or physical conditions and religious beliefs were also exempt.
The ordinance repealing the plastic bag ban must pass a second reading at the town’s commission meeting September 10th before going into effect.