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News Review
It’s Official: No Plastic Bags in Coral Gables
Posted Date: 5/17/2017

The City of Coral Gables gave the final approval last week to prohibit the use of single-use carry out plastic bags in Coral Gables. Retail establishments and restaurants will receive the benefit of a 12 month education campaign, during which the City of Coral Gables will focus its efforts on educating all local businesses on the benefits of the new law and encouraging innovative ideas to eliminate single-use plastic bags. Effective immediately, any entity or individual who has been issued a special event permit by the City is prohibited from providing items in single-use carry out plastic bags during special events.

This ordinance was sponsored by City Commissioner Vince Lago and unanimously approved by the City Commission. "Capitalism and conservation can not only coexist, they can also thrive," said Commissioner Vince Lago who has pushed for various green initiatives and is proud that the City of Coral Gables is now considered a leader in sustainability efforts.

Prior to the final adoption of the ordinance, City officials met with representatives from the business community to work amicably with merchants in allowing them use of their current inventory of plastic bags before transitioning to reusable or recyclable bags.

Certain exceptions exist for prescription medication bags, garbage bags and a few other limited categories. Residents will also be allowed to repurpose carry out plastic bags. The City is in the process of installing 90 new pet waste stations throughout the community.

The ultimate goal of the City of Coral Gables is to replace single-use carry out plastic bags with reusable, recyclable or compostable alternatives in order to reduce littler and pollutants on streets, parks, public spaces and waterways.

There are exemptions that allow the use of certain plastic bags such as those without handles used to protect food or merchandise from being damaged or contaminated, bags to hold prescription medications, those designed to be placed over articles of clothing on a hanger, door hanger bags, newspaper bags, garbage bags, pet waste bags and yard waste bags.

Thousands of marine animals and more than 1 million birds die each year in the United States after ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris. To marine animals, a plastic bag can be a floating minefield − to a sea turtle, a floating plastic bag looks like a jellyfish. Because plastic bags are so lightweight, they are easily airborne and found everywhere, littering the streets with many potential hazards and clogging up drains. Plastic bags are not accepted in most recycling collections including here in Coral Gables. In addition, plastic bags can take hundreds of years to disintegrate into the environment and more than 4 billion plastic bags can end up as litter which is enough to circle the globe 63 times.

The City of Coral Gables wants to prevent this from happening in our own backyard.

As part of this ordinance, stores in Coral Gables are encouraged to use reusable bags or recyclable paper bags which are environmentally friendly. One reusable bag can replace hundreds or even thousands of single-use plastic bags over the course of its lifetime.

The City will begin issuing citations to retail establishments that fail to comply with the ordinance on May 10, 2018. Enforcement fines are per day and not per plastic bag. A $50 fine may be imposed for first-time violations, with fines increasing to $100 for a second violation, $500 for a third violation, and $1,000 for any subsequent violation within a 12-month period.

This plastic bags ordinance is similar to an ordinance enacted by the City regulating the use of polystyrene. In February 2017, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court in Miami-Dade upheld the City’s ordinance as valid and enforceable and concluded that state statutes being used in an effort to prevent the City of Coral Gables from enforcing the ordinance were unconstitutional.

For more information, please contact Matt Anderson, LEED Green Associate at 305-460-5008 or manderson@coralgables.com.