Published On: Fri, Jun 11th, 2021

Boca City Council bans some plastics at outdoor events

By: Dale King

The Boca Raton City Council this week approved an ordinance banning the use or sale of “polystyrene foam products, balloons and confetti in city facilities, on city property and in city rights of way.”

The plastics prohibition, proposed by Council member Monica Mayotte and adopted by a 5-0 vote, establishes a ticket fine ranging from $25 to $50 for violations of the ordinance.

The new law goes into effect immediately but will be the subject of a public information campaign before enforcement starts on Jan. 1, 2022.

In a letter of explanation, City Manager Leif Ahnell told council members that “the intention of the ordinance is to protect the health and well-being of city residents and to support sustainable practices by prohibiting the use or sale of polystyrene foam food ware, unencapsulated polystyrene foam products, balloons and confetti on city property and in city facilities.”

He said the prohibition “extends to temporary vendors, city contractors and special event permittees.”

“It is not my intention to penalize families who bring restaurant-packaged foods to events,” Mayotte said during a public hearing on the ordinance Tuesday night. “We are going for temporary vendors at events in the city.”

“We’ve been getting a lot of emails” supporting such a ban, she said. “The only real opposition was from the Florida Retail Association.”

The ordinance defines “polystyrene foam” as material “commonly used to make disposable cups, bowls, plates, trays, clamshell containers, meat trays and egg cartons and is commonly, though often, incorrectly, referred to by the trademark name, ‘Styrofoam.’”

Mayotte said she recently visited Hillsboro-El Rio Park on a windy day and found a mylar balloon, polystyrene plate and a pink balloon that were improperly disposed of. She also cited reports that deflated balloons are being found in the Everglades.

She warned that wildlife are consuming degrading plastics, thinking it is food, which causes them to die.

More than 25 other communities in Florida have banned the same plastic materials, said Mayotte, among them, Boynton Beach, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, St. Augustine and Orlando.  The Boca ordinance is based on one of these city laws.

The prohibition involves only outdoor use of the materials. Using balloons, confetti and polystyrene indoors is not affected, she said. “If you’re having a party indoors, confetti will be taken away and placed in the trash properly.” 

This is the council’s second litter-control effort approved during 2021. Earlier this year, members established a $250 fine for the improper disposal of COVID-19 protective items such as masks, plastic face coverings, gloves and other paraphernalia. The ban impacts these items when discarded as litter both on land and in waterways.

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