St. Petersburg’s plastic straw ban gets an update before going into effect Jan. 1

Pinellas County
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA)- St. Petersburg’s straw ban is officially going into effect at the end of next month, but city counsel-members were still adjusting the language of the bill this week.

The St. Petersburg City Council, which originally passed the ordinance on the issue in late 2018, updated the straw ban on Thursday, to ensure that alternative straws will only be given upon request.

Sharon Wright, St. Petersburg’s director of sustainability and resiliency, says many of the nearly 660 businesses that use straws have already adopted the policy, and many are finding success with patrons and even saving on the additional costs.

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Florida cities with plastic straw bans

“Overall, when we reached out to every business it was a very high percentage of business owners who thought things with the straw ordinance was going pretty well,” Wright said. “We had one business owner who hadn’t ordered alternative straws in two months, simply because demand wasn’t as high and patrons were getting used to not needing a straw.”

St. Petersburg is among a handful of Florida’s coastal cities to adopt the policy in an effort to reduce the number of microplastics that end up in waterways.

In September, researchers from USF found that those numbers are in the billions, with four billion particles of microplastics in Tampa Bay. That means on average, there are four particles of microplastic in every gallon of water.

During Thursday’s meeting, council members created exemptions for local businesses, in the event that a plastic straw would be needed by a patron because of a medical need.

In Thursday’s meeting, St. Pete City Council also outlined which alternative straws would be allowed— such as straws made of metal, paper, hay and pasta— and which kinds would be prohibited, such as bioplastic straws.

“It’s the fifth most common plastic found during cleanups,” Wright said. “We live in a beautiful city, and I think we’d all like to keep it that way, so it starts with making these small changes.”

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