NEW PORT RICHEY — A proposal to ban the use of multiple plastic and Styrofoam products in the city received a positive reception last week from City Council.
The council heard a presentation from the city’s Environmental Committee chairman, former Councilman Dell deChant, and a local youth environmental activist, Noah Denny.
The pair presented Council with two proposals to consider: One would be banning plastic straws and the other would ban single-use plastic bags and polystyrene products.
The idea of limiting the presence of plastics came after Denny approached the Environmental Committee earlier this year. After hearing from Denny during a committee meeting in May, the volunteer members unanimously supported the idea of City Council creating a pair of ordinances banning the products.
Adding to the committee’s and Denny’s optimism was Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recent veto of a statewide bill that would have denied municipalities and counties of the ability to enact bans on plastic straws.
“This was a push on the pedal for this resolution,” Denny said from the podium in front of City Council at the June 4 regular meeting.
“I would also suggest that the timing couldn’t be better in terms of our future, in terms of the world as it is and the world as it is coming to be,” deChant said. “The more that we can do at a local level to make the world a better place through the restriction of toxic materials, polluting materials, the better our world will be. This is an act for the present, but it is certainly an act for the future.”
Council members applauded Denny’s environmental advocacy and his desire to take the initiative to spearhead change.
“I would like the city to explore this and give us their recommendation as to what to do,” said Councilman Peter Altman. “I think this is a city that’s taking some bold steps and I think it’s important that we cross our t’s and continue to do our research with your help to answer some of those questions when they come up.”
Council directed staff to look into the proposed bans and potentially draft ordinances for future review and discussion. Looking into cost discrepancies for switching to alternative products and gathering opinions from locally affected business owners were two requests from Council.
“I would like at least a dozen letters to go out to local restaurants and bars downtown so that they’re aware that this is on the agenda and they can show up and give their opinion,” said Councilman Chopper Davis, former owner of Jilly’s Lounge on Main Street. “Also, I would like us to consider a six-month or 12-month enactment (period) so they have time to make the changes.”
If Council were to draft an ordinance banning the use of plastic straws, it could be passed and affect the operations of privately owned businesses within city limits. Banning single-use plastic bags and polystyrene products, however, would be a little more tricky, City Attorney Timothy Driscoll said.
According to Driscoll, the state does not permit cities and counties to prohibit the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam products throughout their entire jurisdictions. Local governments can, however, ban their presence on publicly owned and operated spaces. The Orlando City Council did just that June 3, banning single-use plastics and polystyrenes.
New Port Richey city staff members will have to factor state legislation into any potential draft ordinance, but Council is willing to put the proposals on a future agenda as official business.