STUART — The City Commission moved a step closer to banning plastic straws, after a discussion with the business community Monday afternoon.
A vote has not yet been scheduled, but the ban could begin in 2021. The city could pass a law as early as this October and a law could go into effect by 2020, although fines wouldn’t be imposed until the following year. The ban would be the first in the Treasure Coast.
The commission is considering exemptions for hospitals and assisted living facilities. Private businesses, like the ones that offer milkshakes or smoothies, could apply for an exemption, too.
City officials wrestled over who should be exempt and if they could go further than simply a plastic straw ban.
Commissioner Mike Meier, who has been pushing the city to take action on issues such as plastics, urged his fellow commissioners to consider banning all straws, and only allowing alternative straws, like paper ones, upon request.
“Part of this endeavor should not just be about targeting plastic,” Meier said, “but trying to have us move forward to generate less trash, period.”
His fellow commissioners were not in favor of some of his suggestions.
“We’re over-regulating here,” Commissioner Kelli Glass Leighton said.
“We’re trying to nudge the business community,” Commissioner Merritt Matheson said. “At some point it’s on the business owner to nudge his staff to don’t do it until requesting.”
The commission also workshopped the idea of exempting corporate businesses, where its franchise owners cannot necessarily make decisions locally. Commissioners, for now, settled on drafting an exemption form for business owners to fill out instead of a blanket pass.
Owner of Stuart’s Culver’s fast-food restaurant, Dale Rockefeller, told the commission the corporation is “looking into sustainability.” While he said he hopes the company can find a better solution for straws, he hopes a business like his could earn an exemption.
Commissioners brought up the idea of banning plastic bags and Styrofoam as well.
Any plans to go further than a plastic straw ban may not come in this proposal, City Attorney Mike Mortell noted. Current state laws have led to a challenge, and questions for municipalities to pass bans, specifically on plastic bags or plastic foam.
“There is a regulation that is already tying their hands behind their backs, which is why it wasn’t as overreaching as it was,” Mortell said.
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