Coral Gables ordinance up for vote to ban plastic bags

University of Miami students getting food to-go at dining locations across campus may need to bring their own eco-friendly bags if a Coral Gables city ordinance banning plastic bags is approved.

If the ordinance passes a second vote on March 28, Coral Gables will become the first city in Florida to ban plastic bags.

As of right now, students can get to-go meals in plastic bags from either of the two dining halls on campus, as well as from Outtakes and locations in the food court. Chartwells School Dining Services, the university’s dining service provider, would have to find alternatives to using the plastic bags.

“UM Dining learned about the ordinance recently and is looking into sustainable options (i.e. recyclable paper or reusable) for bags within these locations if the ban goes through,” said Amanda Armstrong, director of marketing and guest experience for Chartwells. “UM Dining was proactive in instituting a sustainable option when the ban for Styrofoam went into effect in the city of Coral Gables.”

GreenU Sustainability Manager Teddy L’Houtellier said the move away from these products is a necessity for humans and the environment.

Recycling plastic bags has become an eco-friendly way to discard the bags without affecting the environment. Land-based waste, including plastic, accounts for approximately 80 percent of global marine pollution, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

L’Houtellier said that though recycling plastic is a good alternative to simply throwing away plastic in the garbage, and the steps Coral Gables is taking are the best ones to make sure plastic debris does not end up in the ocean.

“Honestly, recycling bags is really energy-intensive,” he said. “What we should do is make sure we use natural resources in a smart, sustainable way. Plastic is the opposite of that.”

The ban does provide exceptions for businesses. For example, if a consumer provides the plastic bag, the items can be stowed inside by the retailer without penalty. However, if a retailer violates the law by providing plastic bags, it could be fined anywhere between $50-500.

Senior Matthew Dull said he wouldn’t mind having to carry around his own reusable bags. Dull said he already takes his own bags when shopping because he knows the damage a single shopping trip can have on the environment.

“I used to work at a grocery store,” Dull said. “You go through several thousand plastic bags in a day and virtually none of them get recycled. It’s a huge threat to the environment. Any way that we can reduce single-use plastic is a great thing.”

The next Coral Gables City Commission meeting to vote on the ban will be 9 a.m. March 28 in the City Hall Commission Chambers at 405 Biltmore Way.