September 4, 2019

SOUTH FLORIDA — Coral Gables will appeal a recent 3rd District Court of Appeal ruling tossing out the city’s ban on Styrofoam, according to city attorney Miriam Ramos.

Monroe County, Islamorada and West Palm Beach have signed an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief in support of Coral Gables.

Coral Gables in 2016 instituted a ban on expanded polystyrene products, which was challenged by the Florida Retail Federation and Super Progresso.

The industry group represents retailers who want customers to be able to carry purchased items in Styrofoam containers, and Super Progresso owns 7-Eleven convenience store franchises, which use such containers.

After a district court upheld the city’s ban in 2017, the matter was appealed to the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which ruled that the city’s ban on Styrofoam was preempted by three separate Florida statutes, effectively voiding the ban.

The Surfrider Foundation, Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, League of Women Voters of Florida, Legal Scholars, 1000 Friends of Florida, ReThink Energy Florida, Florida Wildlife Federation, Save the Manatee Club and Center for Biological Diversity also signed in support of Coral Gables’s ban.

“The city of Coral Gables commission also adopted a resolution urging the state Legislature to repeal the three statutes and requested assistance from Gov. Ron DeSantis with this effort,” Ramos said.

“In addition, the commission asked businesses in the city to continue protecting our environment by not resuming the use of either polystyrene products or single-use plastic bags.”

Styrofoam, mainly used in cups, is hailed for its ability to keep coffee warm or iced drinks cold. Its low cost, light weight and durability make it popular as to-go boxes, plates, bowls, trays and ice coolers.

But expanded polystyrene is a petroleum by-product that is neither readily recyclable nor biodegradable. Products made from expanded polystyrene easily fragment into smaller pieces and are commonly ingested by marine life and other wildlife.

“The court upheld the constitutionality of three statutes and found that all three prevent local governments from banning Styrofoam food containers,” said Earthjustice attorney Bonnie Malloy.

“These laws are part of a trend by the Legislature to tie the hands of local governments from addressing the significant problems that they are facing in their communities, whether it impacts their environment or their economy.”

The state’s preemption does not apply to local ordinances banning such materials enacted before Jan. 1, 2016, nor does it limit the authority of local governments to restrict the use of polystyrene by individuals on public property, temporary vendors on public property, or entities engaged in a contractual relationship with the local government for the provision of goods or services.

The city of Key West and the village of Islamorada are considering implementing local single-use plastic and foam bans. Village attorney Roget Bryan could not be reached for comment before press time.

tjava@keysnews.com