The “Plastic Monsters” with Barry Wray, who were at City Hall to promote the passing of a single-use plastic ban ordinance. SARAH THOMAS/Keys Weekly 

The “sunscreen ban” made waves back in February, which the Key West city commission approved, and Gov. Ron DeSantis ultimately upheld (vetoing HB 771), after an attempted upending of home rule. Now, a new and more ambitious environmentally-motivated ordinance is on the city agenda: a single-use plastic ban. 

Following the lead of places like California, New York, Hawaii — and over 30 countries — Key West is considering banning single-use plastic. Commissioner Sam Kaufman proposed a resolution in the Tuesday, Aug. 6 city commission meeting that would direct the city manager and city attorney to write an ordinance “banning retail distributed single use convenience plastics (cups, lids, straws, bags, ‘to go containers,’ utensils/ cutlery, etc.)”. The resolution cites other municipalities, including Miami Beach, Miami Dade County, Gainesville and Bal Harbour, that have banned such polystyrene items. 

The reasoning behind this resolution may be evident, especially to environmentally-aware island-dwellers. Yet some jarring statistics were revealed—to an audible reaction of the crowd — that made the issue take on urgency (the resolution’s language proposes the ordinance being enacted upon immediately). 

Barry Wray, of Join the Plastic Free Keys! Initiative, presented the following: 

• 46,000 pieces of plastic are floating on every square mile of ocean.

• Each year, over 19 billion pounds of plastic flow into the ocean.

• 100,000 sea creatures die from plastic entanglement and ingestion.

• 1,000,000 sea birds die annually from plastic ingestion. 

• The United States has the highest global per capita plastic waste. 

• The U.S. recycles 1 out of 200 plastic bags, and the average bag is used 12 minutes.

• The European Union has banned single-use plastics. 

The resolution also includes a goal of bringing the governments of Marathon and the Upper Keys, as well as Monroe County, into unity and collaboration on this initiative. 

The commission passed the ordinance unanimously.

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