Sustainability – St. Pete Plastics Ordinance – October 2018

October 3, 2018


  • Write and/or call HERS committee members to support the Plastics ordinances!!
  • Attend the upcoming meeting on the future of single use plastics in St. Pete -and wear blue!!
    Health, Environment, Resiliency & Sustainability (HERS) Meeting, October 11, 2018, 10:30 – 11:30 AM, St. Pete City Hall, Room 100

In the August 9, 2018 HERS Committee meeting, the three plastics issues were discussed separately with motions to draft ordinances or prohibitions for each.

  1. Plastic straws.  Currently, there is a voluntary reduction in the use of plastic straws by the hospitality industry.  The HERS committee asked Assistant City Attorney to draft an ordinance with a gradual prohibition on plastic straws, to include a violation structure and emphasis on outreach and education. Nursing home, medical facilities and others are exempt.  Unfortunately, this draft ordinance will not include plastic straws from drive-thru operations.
  2. Prohibitions on expanded polystyrene (AKA: Styrofoam). The HERS committee made a motion to expand the Mayor’s policy to limiting styrofoam distribution on city property by extending the prohibition to the right-of-ways including third party vendors in city parks, city co-sponsored events, sidewalk cafes, and city-owned marinas, piers, and docks.  This prohibition would take effect one year from the date of Council approval, giving vendors adequate notice of the more restrictive policy.
  3. Plastic Bags.  A fee based approach is necessary, due to active litigation in Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeals. Members directed the Assistant City Attorney draft an ordinance to implement a fee for plastic and paper bag consumption at food retailers.  Certain organizations that are not retailers would be exempt from the ordinance.

As the League of Women Voters SPA, Sustainability Team previously reported, it’s time to move forward in St. Pete and take steps to remove single use plastics from our waterways, streets, parks and our lives.  The three proposals from the HERS committee are good steps.

ACTION:  email, call and/or write a letter – but contact the representatives on the committee to let them know you support these efforts and push for more in the future.  Attend the meeting at City Hall on October 11th and wear BLUE in support. See talking points and sample letter below.

HERS Members:

Dear Council Member ____,

Thank you for your action in working to reduce single-use plastics. I strongly support all three draft ordinates, namely the banning of straws after a one-year compliance period, the ban on expanded polystyrene at all City locations and events co-sponsored by the City, and the fee for plastic bags.

However, I urge you to go one step further and to remove the exclusion which would allow plastic straws for drive-through drinks. Drive-through drinks are where the volume is. Not banning those plastic straws means that too many straws will still go into the environment. There are other alternatives, like paper straws, that can be dispersed.

During the compliance period, as a member of the LWVSPA’s Sustainability Action Team, I will help educate business owners on available alternatives, working in coordination with the City and other organizations, to ensure there is no burden to our local businesses. I also recommend that City devote resources to organize this work and the volunteer efforts.




July 2018

UPDATE: The St Pete City Council passed a resolution last night (7-19) supporting voluntary efforts on straws. They will continue the conversation on banning straws, utensils, and bags at the HERS meeting on 7/26 at 10:30 am. 

The resolution is a good first step. However, we need to work toward the ban.

To get there, we need to work with Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, to address her concerns that small businesses will be negatively impacted by a ban. Her community has unique needs, and we need to address those to help all businesses thrive. We can develop solutions and alternatives to protect small businesses. The work that Starbucks and McDonald’s are doing right now will help to ensure there will be options for all businesses. We can help by finding some of those options that are currently available and staying on top of the work that the big companies are doing in this space (see 4 below).


Plastic bags, straws, and utensils do not have to be part of our daily lives.

Who profits from single-use plastics? Big oil and big gas! That’s what plastics is made from.

More oil means:

  • more climate change,
  • more refineries in low-income neighborhoods,
  • more negative impacts on at-risk communities from climate change – hurricanes, heat stroke, more humidity – more mold, flooding, etc.
  • more economic instability,
  • more refugees from climate change, and
  • more abuse of eminent domain take of private property

The LWVSPA Sustainability Action Team has joined in calling for a ban on plastic straws, utensils, and plastic bags, with exceptions for hospitals, nursing homes, other medical facilities and people with disabilities, and with a two year compliance period on the ban, during which time there would be a voluntary “by request only” provision of straws. This compliance period will allow businesses time to adapt.


1. TODAY, WRITE your council members in support of a ban, with exceptions and compliance period as described above. A sample letter is below.
2. CALL OR MEET with your council members to encourage them to support a ban on single-use plastics, with the exceptions outlined above.  At the Council Meeting they can move to amend the “support the voluntary efforts” resolution to be the voluntary-first followed by ban with exceptions as mentioned above.
3. ATTEND HERS meeting 7/26 at 10:30 am at City Hall. Wear blue and show support for a ban. If there is an opportunity to speak, do so!
4. HELP to identify specific, affordable alternatives to plastic straws, utensils, and bags. The Chamber of Commerce’s Sustainability Committee is working on this. The Chamber is not currently (and may not later) supportive of a ban. However, the more we can say we are working with businesses to address concerns – and show results of that work – the more businesses will get it.
If you’re interested in speaking, please contact Lisa Vanover.


Suncoast Surfrider, the Suncoast Sierra Club, Chart 411, Environment Florida, and other environmental organizations have been working hard to get the City of St. Petersburg to adopt a ban on straws and other single-use plastics, and we appreciate their leadership. Recently, the No Straws St Pete program, supported by I Love the Burg, has achieved strong success, with many downtown businesses signing on to their voluntary program; we applaud their efforts, and we appreciate the businesses that have stepped up.
There are other good options for straws now: paper, metal, reusable plastic. They are becoming more affordable. Seattle just fully implemented its ban on straws and plastic utensils because they determined enough other affordable options exist, which means businesses would not be burdened by a ban. Other coastal cities in Florida have already banned straws.
And businesses themselves are taking action. IKEA  is no longer providing plastic straws, Starbucks is going to stop using them by 2020, along with Royal Caribbean and other major corporations, as well as all of our local restaurants participating in No Straws St Pete.
Progress is happening, we need an all-out effort to get to a ban.
Questions: please email Lisa Vanover at


Dear Council Member ____:

I (live/work) in St. Petersburg, and I am very concerned about single-use plastics, especially straws, bags, and utensils. Thank you for your support of efforts to reduce plastics in St. Petersburg. While a resolution is a good first step, what we need is an ordinance banning single-use plastic straws, bags, and bags, with a two-year compliance period and exceptions for people with disabilities and medical facilities.

As you know, a large amount of oil does not go into gas tanks; it goes into plastics. More oil means:

  • more climate change,
  • more refineries in low-income neighborhoods,
  • more danger to our most at-risk neighborhoods from hurricanes, tropical storms, and heat waves,
  • more economic instability,
  • more refugees from climate change, and
  • more abuse of eminent domain take of private property

Recently, Starbucks announced they will discontinue the use of plastic straws by 2020. McDonald’s is working on this also. IKEA stopped using them, as did Royal Caribbean. Other municipalities in Florida and around the country have already done this. This is not an “if,” it’s a when! But progress is being made only because communities in Florida and around the world are demanding it.

We must push back against Big Oil and Big Money in politics. Locally, we need to keep our Bay clean, our wildlife protected, our at-risk communities protected, and our tourism industry cared for. And, I know none of want to have more Irmas pounding on our shores. It’s up to us to take the steps needed to protect our at-risk communities from the impacts of climate change from Big Oil!

Last, nobody wants to visit a beach with a bunch of junk on it. And, volunteer hours should be going toward long-term improvements for our Bay and community, not continuously cleaning up non-biodegradable junk!

The time is now. Please move forward on this!

P.S. Think Globally. Act LOCALLY.