Stuart Commissioner Merritt Matheson explains Stuart’s Plastic Regulation
This is about proposed regulation
First and foremost I would like to thank all the residents who came out and spoke in favor of our undertaking. I would also like to thank all our excellent city staff for the countless hours of discussion and research that led us to where we are today. Especially Ann Ellig who has also undertaken the extra workload to chair Stuart’s sustainability committee. I would also like to thank my fellow commissioners for their balanced, positive input.
At the end of the 2019 legislative session Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill passed by our state legislature that would have prohibited municipalities from regulating plastic straws. Shortly after this, at a regular commission meeting I made a motion to have the city host informational workshops on the regulation of single use plastics. Stuart has since hosted 3 public workshops and there has been many hours of discussion with residents and staff. Tomorrow, Oct 14, the commission will have their first of two votes regarding two separate ordinances that evolved from the workshops.
I will describe each briefly below. These descriptions are synopses, not the actual language of the proposed ordinances.
The ordinances pertain to regulations that are within the purview of city government. As a municipality we are currently preempted by our state legislature from regulating such items as plastic bags or styrofoam. With his veto Governor DeSantis left the decision on plastic straw regulation up to local governments. As a city which owns a significant amount of property within its boundaries we are able enact policies on this property that may go beyond the limitations the state has imposed on us. Thus, the city created two separate ordinances, one regarding city property and the other regarding city limits.
The first ordinance pertains to city-owned property and our goal to move towards zero waste. In short, single use plastics that are non-recyclable (water bottles are ok) as well as Styrofoam will be prohibited from distribution on city property. The goal is to have any and all events as well as restaurants on city land use reusable or biodegradable products.
Products that come into contact with food such as plates, utensils and napkins should be compostable. Once products come into contact with food they are typically not cleaned to recyclable quality at large events. Beverage holders should either be reusable (encouraged) or recyclable.
This policy would be encouraged upon the passage of the ordinance and would be enforced beginning January 1, 2021.
The second ordinance is designed to prohibit the distribution of single use plastic straws (including stirrers) by commercial businesses within the geographic limits of the City of Stuart. After passage of the ordinance, straws of any type would. be given out only upon request. Beginning January 1, 2021 straws would still only to be given out upon request, and single use plastic straws (and stirrers) would be prohibited. Businesses serving patrons through a drive-though establishment would be exempt from customers needing to request a straw.
Finally, I would like to encourage any naysayers of the benefits and purpose of these ordinances to research our planet’s trash and plastic problem. Then explain that problem to a child you love. Look them in the eye while you describe the Earth they will inherit and how it has changed in the recent past. While the changes may be an inconvenience to get used to, they are done in overall consideration of public benefit. I hope other local governments will follow suit.
Merritt Matheson Stuart City Commissioner
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