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Leon County Commissioners Impose Self-Ban On Plastic Straw Use, Hopes Local Businesses Follow

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In May, Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill preventing local governments from banning plastic straws, now Leon County is trying to do just that. Tuesday, the county commission met to discuss options to reduce or eliminate the use of single-use plastic straws.

Individuals, businesses, and governments are finding new ways to be more energy and environmentally friendly. Lately, counties throughout Florida have been banning single-use plastic straws and some have included plastic bags, and styrofoam in certain situations.

"I gave up straws years ago just on my own, trying to reduce my own waste and consumption," says Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier.  "My mom always used cloth napkins versus paper napkins. I mean, there was always that education growing up that we should use less if possible."

Dozier says she knows not everybody is fine with paper straws, and the cost to businesses coupled with the necessity of platstic straws for some, has changed Dozier's opinion on an outright ban. 

"I am concerned about the effect on small business if we did an outright ban even if we faze that in. And there is something about ADA accessibility there are people that require straws and they should have access to them if they don’t bring their own,"she says.

Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Regional Director Nick Lowe agrees that switching from plastic to paper could cause a large impact on small businesses.

"The profit margins are very very low in the restaurant segment. And a lot of people don’t understand that, I mean your average restaurateur is probably making somewhere between 6% to 8%," he explains.

To avoid causing harm, Dozier is pitching the idea of offering incentives and linking up with manufacturers to offer businesses discounts. 

"I think the incentive based might be the way to go at this point as we see those new technologies come in and the price start to drop," suggested Dozier.

That idea was tabled during Tuesday night's meeting. For now, the county will stop using plastic straws during county and sponsored events and educate the public on why it’s important to reduce single-use plastic straws. Seventeen municipalities have completely banned plastic straws. Three have adopted policies that only apply to county and county-sponsored events, and three others have approved resolutions encouraging people to stop using plastic straws. 

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.