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Thursday, May 06, 2021

Suck it up: City Commission discusses banning plastic straws

<p><span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/photos/YnaPN0dl4A8?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Gabriel Gurrola</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/search/photos/straws?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span></p>

Plastic straws may be the next thing banned in Gainesville.

The Gainesville City Commission discussed creating an ordinance that would make plastic straws available by request only before banning the product completely at a general policy committee meeting Thursday.

Commissioners Helen Warren, Gail Johnson, Adrian Hayes-Santos and Mayor Lauren Poe were present for the discussion, and all agreed a straw ordinance would be the next step in the right direction.

“More and more people expect [a straw ban],” Poe said. “They see that as a logical step for communities to take.”

The commission passed an ordinance last month banning single-use plastic bags and foam containers.

The new ordinance, which will go into effect Aug. 1, is a part of the city’s initiative to be waste-free by 2040. Banning plastic straws is one of the next steps in that process, Hayes-Santos said.

Hayes-Santos suggested modeling the straw ordinance after a similar one in St. Petersburg, which passed in December.

The St. Petersburg ordinance will first make straws available by request only, which means customers will have to ask for straws before restaurants give them out, Hayes-Santos said. After this period, straws will be banned completely, excluding drive-thrus.

Warren and Poe both said they would like to see drive-thru restaurants included in the Gainesville ordinance.

“If you are doing drive-thru, you can also say ‘hold the straw’ along with the onions,” Warren said.

This isn’t the first time the commission has talked about banning straws. It was discussed in a commission meeting in August, but the focus was shifted to banning bags and foam first.

Loosey’s, a local bar and restaurant at 120 SW First Ave., began completely phasing out plastic products in fall 2017.

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Owner Joy Hughes said Loosey’s began the process with an offer-first system, similar to the one Hayes-Santos suggested at the meeting.

“If you ask first, generally people will be like ‘Oh yeah, I don’t need one,’” Hughes said. “The offer-first policy helped us mitigate the cost.”

The commission will discuss the ordinance again in March.

Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

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