Pt. 5: Microplastics: Threatened Waters, Threatened Food Chain
March 7, 2018


Microplastics: Threatened Waters, Threatened Food Chain

Fifth in a Series

Keep Lee County Beautiful Tip of the Week

In our last article, we looked at simple ways we can change our water bottle habits and have a large impact on the environment by REDUCING the waste stream of plastics that are entering our waters and making their way to us through the food chain. Today, we will focus on the other big offender: Plastic Bags.

It's easier to recycle cardboard than plastic, and paper products biodegrade easily without adding significant weight to products. So, when you have the choice, pick pasta in the box instead of pasta in a bag, or detergent in the box instead of the bottle.

But the largest offender in our lives is the thin plastic bags provided us by most markets. The usefulness of them is extremely limited, yet billions of them are used each year around the world. Although free to shoppers, these bags have a high environmental cost to all of us and are one of the most visible forms of litter.

Bringing your own reusable bag is good environmental advice, in fact such good advice that some governments have implemented policies to encourage more people to do it. The Bangladesh government was the first to do so in 2002, imposing a total ban on the bag, and such a ban has also been applied in countries such as Rwanda, China, Taiwan, Macedonia and most recently Kenya. Although the US Federal government has yet to address the issue, disposable shopping bags have been banned in a number of cities, such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Sadly, with all of its coastline, no city in Florida has enacted any such legislation that a similar state such as Hawaii has done. In fact, thanks to Fort Myers Beach Observer reader Shannon, I learned that communities are prohibited to do so under SB 348, 403.7033 which reads "no local government, local governmental agency, or state government agency may enact any rule, regulation, or ordinance regarding use, disposition, sale, prohibition, restriction, or tax of such auxiliary containers, wrappings, or disposable plastic bags."

I am now following SB348 section 403.70325, introduced by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez of District 37 (Miami-Dade). It reads in part "Notwithstanding s. 403.7033, a coastal community with a population of less than 100,000 may establish a pilot program to regulate or ban disposable plastic bags." A municipality establishing such a pilot program is required to file a report showing the effect on the environment no later than April 2021.

This bill seems like a wonderful way to test reducing the microplastic threat, it's highly visible litter, and the need for organizations such as KLCB to organize environmental cleanups. Sadly, it has been submitted the past 2 years, but has died in subcommittee. We can write or call our representatives to let our feelings be know, but until change comes it is ever more important that we take the initiative ourselves to bring reusable bags to stores. We keep ours conveniently in our car so they are always near when needed.

As always, the best rule to follow is first reduce, secondly reuse, and finally recycle.

This sustainability tip is courtesy of Keep Lee County Beautiful Inc. For more information, visit, email, or call (239) 334-3488.

By Norman Turiano for Keep Lee County Beautiful


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