By: Saraana Jamraj
The ordinance would have been cata “straw” phic for lovers of plastic straws, that is until the Tamarac city commission scrapped it.
After she was asked to research plastic straws, Community Development Director Maxine Calloway presented her findings at the September 23 workshop. Her department found that 500 million plastic straws are used in the country every day — most of which end up polluting the ocean and killing marine life.
They also found that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight.
Other cities around the state and country have implemented plastic straw bans, and Tamarac considered adding themselves to the growing list.
The commission was particularly concerned with what the impact would be on local businesses if they were required to stop using plastic straws.
If they did ban plastic straws, any commercial business that provided them would be prohibited from doing so. Through their research, city staff found that out of Tamarac’s 2,174 active companies, 1,097 would be affected by the ban.
Cities including Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach, Hollywood, and Hallandale Beach have plastic straw bans; however, these cities are located adjacent to the ocean.
Calloway said if passed, Tamarac would be the first inland city in South Florida to pass such an ordinance.
“Personally, I don’t have a problem being the first inland community in Broward County to ban straws,” said Commissioner Julie Fishman.
While Fishman supported furthering discussions on a potential ban, it was not championed by the majority, who cited economic concerns as well as a lack of urgency. Research was presented, which showed that plastic straw pollution was not currently affecting the city, nor were they clogging up their canals.
“I don’t think at this point I would be in favor of this,” said Vice Mayor Debra Placko. “I think it would be a cost for our commercial establishments which would then, in turn, be passed on to people who go into those establishments.”
Mayor Michelle Gomez said while she supported protecting the environment, she didn’t believe this was the most critical aspect to address. Plastic bottle beverages and cigarette butts were a more significant threat, she said. She also wanted individual residents to bear more of the accountability.
“I also believe it is very much a personal responsibility thing that we put our trash of all kinds where it belongs,” she said.
After the short discussion, Mayor Gomez suggested not moving forward at this time. The commission agreed with her, feeling conflicted between environmental and economic concerns, but ultimately deciding it was an issue to be revisited in the future.
Commissioner Fishman said that she would go along with the majority for now, but planned to bring it up again.
- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.