The beautiful beaches of Miami are a delight to locals and attract visitors from all over the country. However, it’s becoming harder to escape the growing piles of trash littering the nine miles of the South Florida beaches. The waste problem isn’t confined to Miami beaches. All of the shorelines along Biscayne Bay is facing the same problem with trash, and the worst culprit is plastic bags. It’s not uncommon for environmental groups to pick up as much as 800 pounds of trash from Miami’s beaches in a single weekend.
Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags
Not only are plastic bags unsightly but they’re an environmental risk, especially near Florida waterways. Piles of plastic bags are a breeding ground for mosquitos which carry disease. Plastic is hazardous to wildlife, can clog systems that control flooding, hinder landfill operations, and can wrap around the mangroves. Sea turtles can’t distinguish between a plastic bag and a jellyfish and can choke to death on the plastic. Fish and sea birds are getting poisoned by the plastic.
Another serious concern is that since plastic bags are made from petroleum, they’re a waste of natural resources. Two United Nations reports state that the damage to marine life around the world is estimated to be $13 billion annually.
Local and State Plastic Bag Laws
Several states and local governments including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. have passed laws that ban plastic bags. Local officials in Miami would like to have a ban on plastic bags. However, the Florida State Legislature passed a law in 2008 that prohibits enacting laws against the use of plastic bags. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection has guidelines that must be followed, and the legislature can’t agree on the law, and Miami’s business community has voiced opposition.
Addressing the Issue in Miami
The Miami Beach Sustainability Committee is dedicated to short and long-term goals for the city’s economic and environmental issues. The committee’s role is to promote policies that keep Miami green and improve the environment. Although plastic bags have not yet been banned in Miami, the Miami Beach Sustainability Committee has addressed issues such as providing more recycling bins around the city to reduce the amount of trash that people throw on the beaches.
Moving Toward Metal Trash Cans
Although Miami hasn’t yet banned plastic bags, the city is moving closer to a ban. In 2017, Coral Gables became the first Florida city to prohibit the use of plastic bags, to make the city more responsible for the environment. The Florida legislature would have to repeal a portion of the law that prohibits cities and towns from banning the use of plastic bags, but the city is closer to making the ban a reality.
Advocates of the plastic bag ban believe that saving wildlife and ending the pollution of the oceans is a priority over retailers having to spend money on recyclable bags. 500 billion plastic bags are used annually, and the recycling rate is one percent. The move by Miami to use metal trash cans and ban plastic bags from retail use will aid in making Miami an environmentally-friendly community.