The global effort to stop plastic shopping bags from lining streetside ditches, polluting waterways and filling landfills could make its way into Pensacola soon if one City of Pensacola councilwoman gets her way.
City councilwoman Sherri Myers, who represents uptown Pensacola, is sponsoring legislation to “either repeal or provide an alternative” to Florida state statute 403.7033, which prevents local municipalities and agencies from acting on their own to ban disposable plastic bags.
The resolution, if passed by the Pensacola City Council, would not ban plastic bags within the city outright, but merely pass on the resolution to the state legislature to encourage action by state lawmakers to allow local municipalities to control regulations on the bags.
Pursuant to section 403.7033, Florida Statutes, no state or local retail bag regulations can be enacted until the Florida Legislature takes action.
The Energy, Climate Change, and Economic Security Act of 2008, which was signed into law by former Gov. Charlie Crist, required the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to complete an analysis on whether a total state-wide bag ban was appropriate for Florida. The legislation prohibited any local or state government agency from creating a law or requirement dealing with plastic bags until the Department of Environmental Protection released its report and the state government was able to take action. Though several years have passed since the DEP’s report was released, Florida’s prohibition of plastic bag bans remains in place.
Two recent efforts to regulate the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags have died in the legislature, one in 2014 and another in 2015. Among the municipalities that have adopted similar resolutions are St. Petersburg, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, and Fernandina Beach.
The effort is aimed at encouraging reusable bags for shopping and to help stem the use of non-biodegradable retail plastic bags— most of which end up in landfills at best or, at worst, fouling local bodies of water, such as Pensacola’s heavily polluted Carpenter’s Creek, which flows through Myers’s district.
Myers is concerned that the creek, which has seen commercial and residential development encroach on its banks since the mid-20th century, is suffering at the hands of pollution, much of which she says is from plastic bags.
“I think people should begin to understand how these products are degrading out waterways and the environment,” Myers said. “When I grew up we didn’t have plastic bags. They haven’t always existed. I was at Carpenter Creek looking at all of the junk, plastic bags and other garbage in the creek. I would like for some type of measures to be taken to control local pollution with plastic bags.”
The legislation will go before the city council next week.