St. Petersburg City Council votes to eliminate harmful single-use plastic straws, place restrictions on plastic foam

Media Contacts
Jennifer Rubiello

Environment Florida

St. Petersburg, Fla. — The St. Petersburg City Council passed an ordinance this evening that will significantly reduce the use of single-use plastic straws and expanded polystyrene (commonly referred to as Styrofoam) in the city. 

“This is a great step forward in St. Petersburg’s efforts to protect our precious coastal community,” said St. Petersburg City Council Member Gina Driscoll.“This small change will make a big difference when everyone is participating!”

Amidst a standing-room only audience, the council voted 5-2 to move forward with an ordinance banning the use of foam on city property and restricting single-use plastic straws. 

“I’m so proud to live in a city that understands the importance of environmental stewardship. This vote will have a lasting impact on the health of our oceans, beaches and waterways, and our vibrant tourist economy,” said Emer Kelly, a representative from the Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition.

St. Pete joins a growing list of local governments, entire countries and major corporations who have committed to eliminating single-use plastics.

“There are trillions of pieces of plastics in Tampa Bay,” said marine geochemist and Eckerd College professor, David Hastings. “The ease of single-use plastics including straws and foam cups and takeout containers is tempting. But their impact on the marine environment is clearly exceeding their benefits. We can no longer use plastic—a material that was designed to last forever—to make products intended to be thrown away.”
Here in Tampa Bay, restaurants and businesses have already joined the national movement away from single-use plastics.The Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition has certified more than a dozen businesses and restaurants as “ocean friendly.”

“We are directly affected by the plastics problem,” said Michael Conlee, owner of Urban Kai, a stand up paddleboard business that operates in Tampa Bay.

To give businesses time to adapt to the new regulations, the ordinance includes a one-year period in which businesses can only give customers single-use plastic straws by request. The ordinance also eliminates polystyrene usage from City property and events. 

“We’re grateful for the common-sense leadership of Councilmembers Driscoll, Foster, Gabbard, Gerdes, and Rice,” said Jenna Stevens, campaign organizer with Environment Florida. “Nothing we use for a few minutes, such as plastic straws and foam cups and takeout containers, should pollute our coasts and oceans for hundreds of years.”

Cities, countries, and companies nationwide and around the world are taking sweeping action to prevent plastics from reaching our waterways. So many, in fact, that National Geographic has taken to cataloguing these efforts.