Plastic straws and stirrers to be banned in Sunny Isles Beach

Sunny Isles Beach will soon be joining Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Surfside in banning plastic straws and stirrers.

The Sunny Isles Beach Commission unanimously adopted the ban during a meeting on Oct. 17. It takes effect Jan. 2.

Prior to the vote, 11-year-old Sophia Linley spoke to the commission. “All of us are bullying our most gentle, fragile and defenseless friend: our Mother Earth. So on her behalf, I’m asking all of you to please vote for the control of plastic straws in this city,” Sophia said.

The ban will have three phases to allow businesses and restaurants time to transition, said Commissioner Alex Lama. In addition, the city will begin a social media campaign and hold meetings after New Year’s day to educate people about the new law.

“We’ve been talking to some businesses. A letter is going to go out and tell them that they can no longer sell plastic straws and stirrers. Then there’s going to be a grace period where we give them a warning and then, eventually, there’s going to be a fine if the ordinance is not heeded,” said Lama.

A first-time violation will result in a $100 fine, $200 for a second and $500 afterward.

Lama said that this first phase will involve meeting with businesses to let them know of the ban. Social media will also be used to remind businesses to use nonplastic straws and stirrers.

The second phase, which Lama called a “warning phase,” will involve officials letting businesses know about their non-compliance, but without a fine.

After about one year, the “enforcement phase” will take place, where fines will be enforced.

“The intention of the phases is to work with local businesses so we can solve this problem together,” said Lama. “We’re using a soft approach to give businesses a chance to use their existing stock to prepare them for the new ordinance.”

Representatives of local businesses said the ban would not be an issue.

“Even though we don’t give out plastic straws that often, once we get the notice that we can no longer use certain plastics, then, of course, we will stop using them and instead use paper,” said Old Samovar Manager Ekatarina Evlanken.

The local Starbucks has already stopped using plastic straws.

“Right now, we only use paper straws and we don’t give out plastic stoppers. We don’t give out anything that’s hard plastic and is not biodegradable,” said Jordan Badista, a shift supervisor at the Starbucks on 17100 Collins Ave.

Starbucks announced in July that all of its locations in the United States will eliminate plastic straws by 2020.

The ordinance has five exceptions.

Straws will not be prohibited for pre-packaged drinks where straws have been attached to or sealed with a container by the manufacturer – such as juice boxes – use by medical or dental facilities, use by schools or county, state or federal governmental entities, use during a locally declared emergency or use by individuals with a disability or other impairment.

Sunny Isles Beach is one of a handful of Florida cities that banned plastic straws after Gov. Ron deSantis vetoed a bill that would have blocked local governments from enacting such laws.

“It’s sad that we have state preemption that prevents us from going one step further into polystyrene [styrofoam], but I think this is a good first step. It’s really a statement, as well as a philosophy and a movement, to really reduce this supply of unnecessary plastic straws and stirrers,” said Commissioner Dana Goldman.

Anna Radinsky is a senior at FIU majoring in journalism and sociology. Besides covering news around Sunny Isles Beach, she also runs the entertainment section of PantherNOW, FIU's student newspaper. She writes profiles on interesting people and covers news related to social and environmental issues, as well as culture and art.