Florida county ban on polystyrene to take effect, skirting state law
- Miami-Dade County will no longer allow the sale or use of any polystyrene food containers and products within its parks and beaches starting on July 1, as reported by WLRN.
- Following the 2016 passage of a state law preempting any municipal bans on the product, Florida cities and counties have gotten creative by enacting regulations related specifically to areas and venues that they control. Cities such as Miami and Coral Gables, that had passed ordinances regulating polystyrene products on a wider scale, were allowed to keep them in place.
- Last week, as reported by the Sun Sentinel, Deerfield became the latest city to ban polystyrene use by its vendors or at its events. That policy will take effect in October. Leading up to the decision, Deerfield officials received pressure from the Dart Container Corporation to reconsider and try a recycling program instead. Dart is headquartered in Deerfield.
Last year's move by the Florida state legislature was not popular among environmental groups or local governments considering regulation on polystyrene products. Its provision to allow any ordinances passed before January 1, 2016, was tested by Coral Gables, which gave preliminary approval to a policy in December 2015. Earlier this spring, a circuit judge ruled in the city's favor after a lawsuit was filed by the Florida Retail Federation. This type of legal wrangling has become more common in a new era of packaging preemption bills and more local governments are expected to test the boundaries of this state law.
Dart has been one of the most ardent proponents of polystyrene recycling in cities around the country, spending big to lobby local officials and offering technical support to try to get recycling programs off the ground. The company has also been opening new drop-off centers around the country. Though until San Diego's City Council recently voted to start accepting polystyrene containers in curbside recycling bins, Dart had seen little success on the municipal level. Other cities, most recently New York, have been critical of Dart's recycling claims and moved to ban or limit the use of polystyrene products instead.
As with plastic bags and other single-use items, polystyrene products can be recycled. Depending on the quality of material collected and access to regional infrastructure it may not always be cost-effective to do so. While they usually make up small percentages of city's overall waste streams, the expanded polystyrene containers can get a bad image for their perceived role in adding to litter . Like many coastal cities, Miami is attuned to the issue of marine litter and has been the site of research looking into the cause of marine waste.
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