Sarasota votes to limit single-use plastics, foam containers on city property

Plastic drinking straws aren't completely going anywhere in Sarasota, but if you're dining on public property in the city, you'll have to ask for one.

A new law passed by the city Monday goes a step further with polystyrene foam - commonly known as Styrofoam - by banning it outright.

The city's sustainability manager says they've been working on the issue for more than a year.

"Community members have been coming and meeting with us," said Stevie Freeman-Montes. "We've been trying to understand the scale of the problem."​​​​​​

The proposal to restrict single-use plastics follows a 2015 Mote Marine Laboratory study that found microplastics inside more than a hundred dead sea turtle hatchlings.

"These plastic materials break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics," said Freeman-Montes. "And especially Styrofoam material. It's ingested by wildlife and becomes a major environmental problem."

It's a problem many consumers along Main Street want to solve.

"I think it's great. I think as little plastic as we can use, the better," said Bradenton resident Lynn Fisher, who was dining at C'est La Vie Cafe on Main Street. "I mean, we're all guilty of using a little bit of plastic, so anything we can use, the better. I always say, if you're not a part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

"Anything we can do to help the environment is good," said James Blackburn, who was also dining on Main Street.

C'est La Vie Cafe was ahead of the curve. It stopped using straws more than a year ago.

"We still order straws, like paper ones, for people that really need one," said owner Christophe Coutelle. "But we keep going in that direction, because we think it's nice for nature, and to be a bit more green."

The law will only apply to public property.

"Restaurants that either lease city land, or that have a sidewalk cafe permit, or a special event where they're using city property. Those types of situations," Freeman-Montes said.

The law goes into effect January 1, 2020, for sidewalk cafes, and August 2020 for special events.