Florida Surfrider Chapters are in support of the immediate phase out of polystyrene in Florida. Sadly, the 2022 Florida Session did not ratify the FDACS rulemaking that would've phased out polystyrene in 40,000+ businesses across Florida in its purview.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam is not economical to recycle and so often gets littered or landfilled. Its also not biodegradable in our lifetimes and breaks into small pieces that are harder and harder to clean up. These microplastics are often mistaken for nesting materials and ingested by wildlife. EPS products are 95% air and are easily blown into our waterways and stormdrains. EPS recycling is not economical and often not possible due to contamination, so most of it gets landfilled, incinerated, or littered. Continued production and demand for these plastics is not in line with greenhouse gas reduction or resiliency initiaves.
In August, 2021, Surfrider Foundation submitted testimony in a workshop to support of the phase out of polystyrene EPS foam from Florida by way of a food safety rulemaking under the purview of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Following a Surfrider Foundation cleanup and press conference in Siesta Key Beach in September, 2021, the FDACS Commissioner announced in that the Department is beginning the rule-making process to start the process of phasing out of polystyrene food packaging by the end of 2021. This was a very exciting moment in a state that passed a preemption law in 2008 prohibiting local governments from banning plastic bags and most local control of polystyrene.
On November 15th, a second rulemaking meeting changed the orginal 5 year language for a phase out, to a 3 year phase out. Coalition partners from throughout the state alongside the Surfrider Foundation spoke in favor of this change in the Orlando Energy and Climate Summit event. We are in strong support for this more aggressive timeline proposed. The phase out will go into effect within a year and will impact 40,000+ grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, and other businesses under FDACS's purview (not restaurants). This means these businesses will have to be polystyrene-free within 3 years.
Now that a statement of estimated regulatory costs (SERC) summary has been submitted, it is clear legislative ratification will be necessary. The Surfrider Palm Beach Chapter gave comments in support of this ratification on December 10 in Jupiter Lighthouse. Read more here. Technical changes to the rule may still happen and we will be monitoring closely.
Surfrider Foundation has been in support of the rule-making process by sharing quantified beach clean up data tracked by Surfrider chapter volunteers from throughout the state, as well as submission of scientific data and case studies on the dangers of polystyrene to the environment and effectiveness of phase outs in other states. We also continue to submit comments in support of a more broad rulemaking for other agencies to phase out these dangerous products. If the changes are substantive, there will be another hearing for the rulemaking.
Though these FDACS rules won’t impact restaurants, the hope is that Florida’s entrepreneurs, business owners, and consumers will rise to the challenge and help make Florida Foam Free everywhere throughout the state! Our Ocean Friendly Restaurants have been leading the way!
The Surfrider Foundation always promotes zero waste, reuse, and reduction strategies first! Let's make Florida Foam Free!