“We need to do something,” was the phrase that almost every member of the public and Jupiter’s Beach Committee used at a special meeting to discuss the proposed plastic straw ban ordinance. But after more than two hours of public comments, presentations and discussion, the Beach Committee was split on whether the ordinance is the something that the town needs.
“We are not unanimous in the approach that we are advocating,” said committee chair Gail Whipple about the proposed ban. “Maybe there is a way to get at this in a more win-win way.”
Tuesday’s meeting was held because the committee wanted to do more research before making a recommendation to the town council about the ordinance.
There were 17 people who spoke, with 14 in favor of the ban. Some brought buckets of bottle caps and cups of straws collected from Jupiter Beach and pieces of plastic retrieved from the ocean to make their points.
“I have been swimming in this ocean before I could even walk,” said resident Dylan Reed. “I am worried that in 30 years if I go to the beach that I will see more plastic debris in the ocean than fish.”
Another resident, Blake Lyle, said “the residents of Jupiter care. The people will be your enforcers [of the ban.]”
Katie O’Hara, a conservation coordinator at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, provided official statistics about straws and plastic to the group and Carl Stearns represented the Friends of Jupiter Beach when he voiced his approval of the ban.
But committee members were unsure if an ordinance is the right choice. The group agreed that plastic pollution is a huge problem, but many believed change could be achieved just through education.
“There is no way to enforce this project without people involved. We need to work together as a community,” said David Uhlfelder, committee member. “It can’t be done by passing a law. It sounds nice, but I don’t think it will work.”
“I’m torn. I am just not big on an ordinance,” said committee member Troy Holloway.
Whipple decided that the committee is going to take another 30 days to come up with a proposal for the council. They will reconvene on July 23. Other options on the table are a proclamation or resolution instead of an ordinance as well as a six- to eight-month education period.
“We didn’t get the response we were hoping for, but we aren’t giving up yet,” said Marilu Christina Flores, who wrote the proposed ordinance. “There are very passionate people in this town and there is no reason why Jupiter can’t lead the way on this issue.”
Jupiter has been making strides toward coming up with a solution that works for its residents and helps the environment, but it’s not the only city.
Delray Beach, which considers itself one of the country’s most sustainable cities, is joining the conversation about straws.
Delray can be “on the cutting edge of being a sustainability city,” said Mayor Shelly Petrolia. “We’ll be pushed at the front of the list of getting funding.”
There hasn’t been a public forum or a vote about a possible straw ban in Delray yet, but a few restaurants in the town and also in Boca Raton have stopped automatically giving out straws or ditching them all together.
“At Caffe Luna Rosa, our restaurant and diners are right across the street from the beach and ocean, and as environmentally aware citizens of this seaside village, it is our responsibility to do what we can to preserve the natural beauty around us,” said owner Fran Marincola. The Delray restaurant will be giving out a biodegradable alternative instead.
Tim Finnegans in Delray, Farmer’s Table in Boca and The Breakers in Palm Beach ditched the plastic straws, while Kapow Noodle Bar in Boca and The Corner Cafe in Tequesta no longer do auto-straw.
“Tim Finnegan’s loves our marine life and we will join in the effort to stop polluting our beautiful oceans and harming marine life with plastic straws,” the restaurant’s website reads.
The initiative to ban straws — whether an outright ban or forcing business to only offer plastic straws upon request — will likely land on a Delray Beach City Commission agenda in July.
Post Staff Write Lulu Ramadan contributed to this story.