The Gainesville City Commission gave its first approval to an ordinance that would ban the use of plastic bags and foam containers at a meeting Thursday evening.
The approval passed 7-0, and the ordinance will be made law on Aug. 1 if it receives a second approval later this month.
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said other places have started a similar ban such as Jamaica, which banned single-use plastic bags, foam and straws on Jan. 1.
“They are a much poorer country than the City of Gainesville,” Hayes-Santos said. “I think we should take a stand that protects our environment.”
During the meeting, there was some debate from Commissioner Helen Warren and Commissioner Gigi Simmons about the lack of a hardship exemption for businesses that would financially struggle.
“I don’t feel that we’ve had a deep enough conversation about the option,” Warren said.
Peter Yñigo, the owner of Mi Apá Latin Cafe, expressed similar concerns to the commission and shared his experience with switching from foam to paper.
“I don’t know how many local small restaurants are going to be able to absorb the costs,” he said.
During public comment, residents like Gina Hawkins, 59, executive director of Keep Alachua County Beautiful, said she supported the law.
“If anyone doubts this is an issue in the environment for our health and safety, then I invite you to come out on the MLK day of service and pull bags and styrofoam out of creeks and roadways,” she said.
During his lunch hour, 26-year-old UF chemical engineering doctoral student Virat Upadhyay serves himself Krishna Lunch using their new to-go containers. Krishna staff has started using the containers in order to help keep food servings — and customers — warm.