To the disappointment of some, Jupiter town councilors unanimously approved a resolution to start a townwide education campaign to encourage businesses, residents and visitors to curb their use of single-use plastic straws.
But the town will go a step further by analyzing its own single-use plastic consumption, an effort to lead by example.
It was the final straw in a saga that began in April to make Jupiter the next U.S. municipality to ban plastic single-use straws. Fort Myers Beach and Miami Beach have taken the plunge, and Starbucks announced last month the company would eliminate plastic straws by 2020. Seminole properties in the state hope to complete their ban by next month.
Those who supported a ban locally, like Jupiter resident Marilu Cristina Flores who drafted an ordinance, wanted to establish a strong stance because plastic breaks down into microplastics, often polluting waterways and endangering the marine life that ingests it. Flores’ ordinance would have prevented restaurants from automatically handing out plastic straws, and instead offer biodegradable straws at the customer’s request.
The town’s beach committee met three times over the course of four months but eventually recommended a resolution was the best choice. Committee members believed that an outright ban would be difficult to enforce and be a hardship for businesses.
Three of the five who spoke at Thursday evening’s special meeting were in favor of a ban rather than an education campaign. Monique Belanger wanted Jupiter to be a leader rather than a follower and wanted action more than education and awareness.
“We are a beach town. We are so proud of that. People here argue over and over, ‘I’m a local. I’m a native,’” she said. “People are so proud to be from here, but we’re not proud enough to take that first step and create an ordinance that will actually impact the problem.”
Councilman Ilan Kaufer added language that the town would decide on an education campaign by the end of this year. Taking the resolution a step further, Kaufer suggested that the town review how it buys and uses single-use plastic within the government by 2019 and “strive” to eliminate this use, except for necessary public safety supplies, by 2020.
The word “strive” was added to soften the resolution’s requirement of the town before they had an inventory of their plastic use, Mayor Todd Wodraska said.
At the end of the meeting, Wodraska expressed frustration that the plastic straw issue had been fast-tracked without going through the proper channels and pulled staff from other tasks.
“I wasn’t crazy about how we allowed it to necessarily happen,” he said. “I want to respect the prioritization process of how we get things to an agenda.”
Councilman Jim Kuretski followed up by saying that if the issue hadn’t been fast-tracked, “it would have been a year” before the council would discuss it.
“It’s always the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Councilman Wayne Posner quipped.
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