INSPIRED BY CORAL GABLES, FL BECOMING THE FIRST CITY IN FLORIDA TO BAN THE USE OF SINGLE-USE CARRY OUT PLASTIC BAGS BY RETAILERS AND AT CITY SPECIAL EVENTS, MEGAN HOOTS, IS STARTING A MOVEMENT TO BAN PLASTIC BAGS IN VERO BEACH, FL’S 32960 AND 32963 ZIP CODES.
Megan Hoots is Chairman of the Florida Young Democrats of Indian River County, the local chapter of the Florida Young Democrats (FYD). Currently there are 38 members.
“We have a fragile ecosystem in Indian River County and need to protect it. There is nothing like it in the world,” says Ms. Hoots. “Plastic bags, bottles and straws are the main culprits.”
Coral Gables’ ban on single-use carry out plastic bags was enacted by County Commissioners on May 9, 2017. Although they are delaying fines from $ 50 – $500 for retailers for the first year, enforcement for special events started immediately, potentially resulting in having permits revoked.
According to a June 6, 2017 article in onegreenplanet.org, “the supermarket chain Publix is now phasing plastic bags out of their stores in Coral Gables, Florida. To mark the occasion, the store is giving away branded reusable bags for free.
At the checkout, the customers will no longer be able to get a plastic bag for their groceries, but they can choose between fabric reusable bags and paper ones. Once the plastic bag inventory at the stores is all used up, that pervasive item will be gone.”
The reason Ms. Hoots is targeting Vero Beach’s 32960 and 32963 zip codes follows Florida Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez and Florida Representative David Richardson’s companion bills that would allow coastal communities with a population of fewer than 100,000 to implement pilot programs testing regulations or bans of disposable plastic bags.
32960 and 32963 fit those demographics.
Ms. Hoots’ aim, along with her 38 fellow Florida Young Democrats is to get enough signatures of support to bring a proposal before the Vero Beach City Council to have the Council follow along and adopt Coral Gables’ ban.
On July 1, 2017 the Young Democrats received 137 signatures alone at Burgers and Brews – An American Heritage Celebration in downtown Vero Beach.
In 2009, the District of Columbia enacted a law to ban the distribution of disposable, non re-cyclable plastic carry-out bags and imposed a fee of five cents for distribution of disposable bags.
Hawaii was the first state to fully ban plastic bags at grocery stores. Bans in Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties took effect between 2011 and 2013. Honolulu became the last major county to approve the ban.
In August 2014, California enacted legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The bill also imposed a 10 cent minimum charge for recycled paper bags, reusable plastic bags and compostable bags at certain locations.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the following are notable cities/counties with plastic bans and fees:
Cities with Plastic Bag Bans:
- Cambridge, Mass.
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
Cities/Counties with Plastic Bag Fees:
- Boulder, Colo.
- Brownsville, Texas
- Montgomery County, Md.
- New York, N.Y.
- Portland, Maine
- Washington, D.C.
NCSL also reported that between 2015-2016 “at least 77 bills have been proposed by 23 states regarding the regulation of plastic bags in retail settings.”
Even Greenpeace New Zealand is chiming in, having launched a video and petition calling on the Government to ban supermarket bags.
Getting plastic bags banned is a world-wide, 10-year strategic aim of the group and campaigns have been running internationally for 18 months. “A lot of good work has taken place by local groups,” says spokesperson Elena Di Palma. ”
Greenpeace says New Zealanders use around 1.6 billion bags every year. “They’re used for an average of only 12 minutes, yet each one can take a thousand years to degrade,” says Di Palma. “New Zealand’s plastic waste problem is quickly spiralling out of control.
Recent research shows that one-third of all turtles that wash up on New Zealand beaches have died from consuming plastic. Turtles are known to mistake plastic bags for their favourite food – jellyfish – and swallowing the plastic can be fatal for them. Plastic bottle tops, balloons, plastic cutlery, and straws are some of the worst culprits.”
One event that made Greenpeace officially step up its efforts was publicity over the discovery of an enormous floating island of plastic, eight times the size of New Zealand, in the South Pacific.
Recently, on July 25, 2017 Shaena Montanairi of the National Geographic wrote: “Plastic Garbage Patch Bigger than Mexico Found in Pacific.”
National Geographic Society
Ms. Hoots and her young democrats plan to “go live,” so to speak, with their campaign at the end of August, 2017. By then they will have a logo and will have printed the logo on reusable grocery bags and T-Shirts.
They already have their slogan, “Save the Sea, Go Plastic Free.”
Ms. Hoots other objective is to create a “branding package” of all the work they have done (e.g. petitions, T-Shirts, logo etc.), so it can be sent to other coastal coastal communities for them to easily kick-start their campaigns without figuring out how to do it. Ms. Hoots referred to the package as sort of a “plastic bag ban for dummies.”
“If Coral Gables did it, we and other communities can do it. If enough of us do it we can champion a state-wide ban, just like California.”
As a last note, Ms. Hoots and her team are sponsoring a beach clean-up event at Jaycee Park, Vero Beach, on September 16, 2017.