The diverse and beautiful waters that surround the Florida Keys improve our quality of life while drawing visitors from around the world. In fact, ocean recreation and tourism supports more than 30,000 Keys jobs and drives nearly 60% of the economy, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Plastics bags are distributed commonly at checkout counters by retailers throughout the Keys and in most of the United States and the world. Many shoppers like the bags, in part because they are readily reusable as garbage can liners and for the disposal of pet waste.
Nevertheless, these bags, only 12% of which are recycled nationwide, are environmentally unfriendly. They take several hundred years to decompose, litter landscapes and clog sewers and stormwater drains. They're especially perilous in marine environments like those off the Keys, where they leach toxins and are sometimes ingested by prized inhabitants, such as sea turtles and birds.
Numerous cities and some counties around the United States and the world have passed laws that either outlaw the use of plastic bags by retailers, or impose fees for their use. In Florida, however, a 2008 statute banned cities and counties from implementing any such laws. Bills introduced in the Florida House and Senate ahead of the 2015 legislative session would eliminate this prohibition. If passed, they would allow cities with populations of less than 100,000 (but not counties) to enact ordinances regulating or banning the use of plastic bags.
Would you like to see local governments granted the power to regulate or ban the use of plastic bags at checkout counters?
(image from Anne Fontaine Foundation)