New Florida legislation would restrict local plastic bag bans despite evidence they are effective

A new report shows plastic bag bans work to reduce waste, pollution and litter, but proposed Florida legislation would make it harder to ban single-use plastic bags.

Beyond plastic


Plastic bag in the woods
Environment Florida | TPIN

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Whether it’s hanging from our trees, lining our roadways or washing up on our beaches, single-use plastic bags are everywhere. Unfortunately, there’s an effort underway to make it impossible for Florida cities to pass plastic bag bans—one of the best tools to address local plastic pollution.

Single-use plastic bags, the type you get by the dozen at the supermarket checkout, are one of the most wasteful products out there. They are rarely reused, are nearly impossible to recycle and easily end up in our environment where they can harm wildlife.

It’s no wonder then why over 500 cities and 12 states have taken action to get rid of this unnecessary product. There’s strong evidence that these bag bans are working to reduce plastic bag waste and litter and are encouraging people to choose more sustainable bag options.

Unfortunately, there’s an effort underway to make it impossible for local municipalities to do the same here in the Sunshine State.

Legislation pulls back current single-use plastic bans, outlaws new ones

SB 1126/HB 1641 specifically calls out single-use plastic like bags and polystyrene among others as containers that local governments and state agencies can not regulate, even on their own property. Roughly 19 municipalities in Florida have some type of ban on polystyrene or single-use plastic containers; it appears this bill would be retroactive, making those ordinances illegal, and effectively banning any new ones. 

“These products make up the majority of the litter collected during cleanups around our state. It doesn’t make sense to ban local governments from trying to create healthier communities for wildlife and residents.” says Environment Florida advocate Mia McCormick.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of plastic litter and polystyrene foam cups and to-go containers are collected from our beaches, parks and waterways every year through efforts like the Great American Cleanup and the International Coastal Cleanup.

Girl picks up plastic bag during cleanup.
Environment Florida | Used by permission
Pinellas county student picks up plastic bag during cleanup.

Single-use plastic is dangerous

Some of the most damaging containers are single-use plastic, like plastic bags. The usable lifespan of the product is short, but if left alone, would pollute our environment for hundreds of years. Our native animals like sea turtles, fish, birds and marine mammals often mistake plastic for food that they eat. While plastic does decompose, it never disappears, instead it continues to bring problems in the form of microplastic. Scientists have learned that microplastics are in the food we eat, the air we breathe, they’re even in our blood. The steps we take now to limit the amount of plastic we allow into our environment will be praised by future generations of Floridians.

According to a 2021 survey from the Department of Environmental Protection 93% of Florida residents believe regulations on single-use plastic are necessary. In Plastic Bag Bans Work, the report analyzed data from across the country and found that bans in just five locations have cut single-use plastic bag consumption by about 6 billion bags per year – or enough to circle the earth 42 times. A waste reduction calculator that’s provided as part of the report, estimates that a single-use plastic bag ban in Florida would keep about 6.5B plastic bags out of the environment each year. And because plastic is made of petroleum, that would also save over 33M gallons of oil a year used to produce them.

Stop banning our bans

So why would lawmakers stand in the way of getting some of the most harmful litter out of our communities? Tell your state lawmakers not to support legislation that keeps local governments from making decisions about single-use plastic and other harmful materials in their communities. You may have regulations working to reduce plastic in your community that would have to cease. Encourage them to support bills that would reduce plastic litter and move us toward using more sustainable ways to bring our goods and food home.


Mia McCormick

Advocate, Environment Florida

Mia is focused on fighting for clean waterways, protecting Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas, advocating for stronger wildlife protections and reducing plastic pollution on our beaches. Mia lives in the Tampa Bay area and loves taking her family on nature adventures.

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