Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

Most Gainesville residents won’t be finding single-use plastic straws at stores or restaurants any longer, unless they request them.

A plastic straw ban officially began to be enforced in Gainesville on Jan. 2. In August, city commissioners voted to ban single-use plastic straws and stirrers from restaurants and stores. The ordinance doesn’t apply to hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities or people with disabilities.

The ban is part of the city commission’s plan to make Gainesville waste-free by 2040

City Commissioner David Arreola, who voted in favor of the ban, said he hopes it raises awareness of the waste produced by our society and the impacts of everyday consumerism. 

Businesses that don’t adhere to the ban will receive verbal and written warnings, and those with written warnings will receive citations until they comply, Arreola said. The Code of Ordinances lists the fine amount at $250. 

“We’re talking about straws — just do the right thing,” Arreola said. 

Unlike the single-use plastics ban that was repealed following The Florida Retail Federation’s lawsuit against the city of Coral Gables back in 2016, Arreola thinks the straw ban is in Gainesville to stay. In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the state-wide prohibition of local straw bans. 

Satchel’s Pizza received a warning about its straws back in October. As first reported by WCJB TV20, the city issued a warning to the restaurant, saying it had until Jan. 2 to get rid of its plastic straws.

Satchel Raye, the owner of the Gainesville pizza shop, declined to comment on the ban to The Alligator. 

While the ordinance states that it excludes those with disabilities, there is still a possibility that some businesses don’t have plastic straws readily available. 

Gerry Altamirano, the assistant dean and director of UF’s Disability Resource Center, said people must consider the intersection between sustainability and accessibility.  

Altamirano said students with disabilities have shared concerns with the DRC about not having access to plastic straws. 

The DRC has advocated for straws at Broward Dining for students with disabilities, as some shared concerns about not having access to plastic straws, said Altamirano.  

“An issue with sustainability is that it causes people to forget individuals with disabilities,” Altamirano said. 

Altamirano said he believes innovation is key to bridging the gap between these two concepts.sustainability and accessibility. 

“What we need is innovation...,” he said. “A way to redesign the cup with properties of a cup to have a straw without additional plastic.”

Life Unplastic, a shop specializing in plastic-free, compostable and biodegradable items, is one of the local leaders of the sustainability movement. 

The store’s owner, Joy Hughes, wrote in an email to The Alligator that she hopes the ban shows people the value in changing from a culture of convenience to one that respects reusable ways. 

“Plastic is toxic and persistent, so while the ban might be spoken about negatively by some people, I think of it as an ice breaker for communities,” Hughes wrote.

Hughes also wrote that she believes plastic pollution should be curbed at the source — essentially before it even becomes a product. She likened changes at a consumer level to mopping up water from an overflowing tub. 

“The work must be done, but we won't be able to see real change until we turn off the tap,” Hughes wrote. 

Contact Grethel Aguila at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GrethelAguila.