Plastic Pollution

Florida Legislature Passes Moratorium on Straw Bans

The bill represents a win for defenders of plastic straws


After a long string of policy defeats, supporters of the single-use plastic straw finally scored a win yesterday when the Florida legislature passed a bill prohibiting local governments from banning plastic suckers.

In a mostly party-line vote, the Florida Senate passed HB 771, which bars cities and counties from adopting or enforcing any regulation of plastic straws for the next five years.

The bill would also require the state legislature's in-house research organization to issue a report in December on the "data and conclusions" used by local governments when passing their straw laws. That's a welcome provision given how often bogus straw stats are cited by legislators and city officials, or even incorporated into the text of straw bans.

Florida cities were some of the first adopters of plastic straw regulations. Miami Beach enacted a ban on beachside businesses handing out straws all the way back in 2012.

Currently, 10 Florida cities have either straw bans or more modest straw-on-request laws (which prohibit food service businesses from handing out straws unless a customer specifically requests one).

By forbidding the enforcement of straw regulations, HB 771 effectively nullifies these laws for the next five years. Barring any future legislative changes, cities can start enforcing their straw laws again come 2024.

That makes the bill's passage a partial victory, but a welcome one nonetheless, given the unmitigated string of defeats opponents of straw bans have suffered over the past year or so.

HB 771 also offers one possible way to combat the spread of straw bans in the future by taking decisions about straws away from ban-happy city councils and turning them over to (occasionally) more sensible state legislatures.

State-level preemption laws have already helped turn back local bans on plastic bags (yesterday's favorite target of environmentalists) in places like Minneapolis and Austin.

In addition to Florida, straw ban preemption bills have been introduced in the Colorado and Utah legislatures, although neither has passed.

Some libertarians might bristle at the idea of taking decisions away from localities.  However, for those who have a low tolerance for municipal stupidity, Florida's straw ban is good news.

Straws make up a tiny portion of America's plastic litter, which in turn makes up a tiny portion (about 1 percent) of global plastic pollution. Banning them will have approximately zero impact on the world's oceans.

Having passed the state House of Representatives earlier this week, HB 771 goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for signing.