Push to ban plastic straws in Jupiter fails by one vote in committee

July 23, 2018
Jack E. Lighton, president and CEO of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, speaks at Jupiter’s beach committee meeting on July 23, 2018. Lighton said he was in favor of the ban of single-use plastic straws. “[This] is a really important moment in our community,” said Lighton about the proposed ordinance. (Hannah Morse/The Palm Beach Post)

After months of back and forth, Jupiter’s beach committee decided not to support an ordinance to ban single-use plastic straws, and instead will recommend a resolution to the council.

“I think tonight went very well,” Betsy Munson, vice chair of the beach committee, said after Monday’s meeting. “I know there were a few people who wanted an ordinance, but this is Jupiter and we would rather work together with the people than against them.”

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The ordinance failed by one vote Monday at Jupiter’s Community Center, but the committee was unanimous in its recommendation to the council on a resolution, which is a strong stance, against single-use plastic straws that will also come with an education campaign.

“I think the resolution was the correct way to go,” Munson said. “I think it’s a win-win for the beach committee, the Town of Jupiter and the restaurants.”

Marilu Cristina Flores, a Jupiter resident who wrote the proposed ordinance, said “a resolution is a win.”

“It may not be the ordinance we hoped for, but it provides us with the opportunity to educate the public and have a resolution on the books for a year,” Flores said. “It’s really all about educating the public and curbing plastic use, so it is definitely a win for us today.”

The details of the resolution aren’t dictated by the beach committee. The committee just makes a recommendation based on the research members have done and been provided with. The majority of the committee agreed that an ordinance, which comes with fines, was too strong of an action to take.

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“I wouldn’t rule it out, but I wouldn’t start with it,” Beach Committee Chair Gail Whipple said of the proposed ordinance during Monday night’s discussion before the vote.

This was the second meeting dedicated to the issue. Last month, the committee had a special meeting where 17 community members — the majority in favor of the ban — spoke on the subject.

Monday’s meeting drew a crowd of about 21 people and 11 spoke in favor of the ordinance, while putting an emphasis on how Jupiter could be at the forefront of the no plastic straw movement.

“This ban may not save our ocean. It may not, but it will give us an opportunity to start a conversation that needs to happen,” said resident Chelsea Reed. “And Jupiter can be at the forefront of that.”

Jack Lighton, president and CEO of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, also spoke in favor of the ban and said it’s an “really important moment in our community.”

“The conversation we are having with regard to the single-use plastic straws should be the first sort of tip of the iceberg of many conversations that we are going to have to have in our state not only about single use plastics … but also conservation,” said Lighton.

Another Jupiter resident, Zachary Amrose, described the ban on single-use plastics as “the trend of the future.”

Despite the public’s strong feelings about the ordinance, the committee is looking to ease into the issue.

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Munson said this is the biggest item that the beach committee has ever been presented with and had to vote on.

“We usually just deal with sand,” she said.

Town Manger Matt Benoit earlier recommended Jupiter stay away from the ban.

“My recommendation is to stay away from any sort of plastic straw ban,” wrote Benoit in a weekly update from April 6 that was submitted as material to the beach committee. “I don’t see it reasonably enforced by town staff, largely because the number of businesses that would be affected in Jupiter is probably five to 10 times more than what Fort Myers Beach faced.”

While the beach committee has decided on a recommendation, Flores said there is still work to do.

“This is just the beginning,” she said. “We are determined to succeed.”