Coral Gables Styrofoam Ban Blocked by Florida Appeals Court

Biltmore Hotel Miami, Coral Gables (photo credit: Pixabay)

In February 2016, the City of Coral Gables, in Miami-Dade, approved an ordinance to prohibit the sale and use of expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam). The city was then promptly sued by the Florida Retail Federation, a powerful lobbying group that represents Publix, Target, Walmart, and other large retailers.

At the same time, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed HB 7007 into law (F.S. 500.90) forbidding any Florida municipality from enacting local ordinances banning expanded polystyrene. Signed by Rick Scott (R) on March 16, 2016, the law was made retroactive to January 1, 2016.

A year later, on February 27, 2017, Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto ruled in favor of Coral Gables. Last week, a three-judge panel of Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal over-turned Cueto’s ruling.

The case focused heavily on a wide-ranging Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services bill that state lawmakers passed in March 2016. The bill barred local governments from regulating food-related polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, containers and made that prohibition retroactive to any local ordinances passed after Jan. 1, 2016.

CBS Miami, “Florida Appeals Court Blocks Coral Gables Styrofoam Ban“, August 14, 2019

In Florida Retail Federation’s original July 18, 2016 press release, then President/CEO Randy Miller misleadingly said, “The City of Coral Gables is another example of a local government believing that the laws of the State of Florida don’t apply to them in spite of the fact that the Florida Legislature passed a law this session that preempted municipalities from passing a local ordinance banning the use of polystyrene.” To be clear, Florida Legislature passed their law more than a month AFTER Coral Gables passed their ordinance.

Miller further claimed: “…implementing a patchwork of different ordinances like this, which could change from street to street or block to block, is not only confusing to customers but also difficult for retailers.” This, of course, ignores the fact that the very same legislation allows other municipalities to retain their polystyrene bans.

Miami Beach was the first community in Florida to pass a local ordinance and in 2014 banned Styrofoam products on beaches and in parks and sidewalk cafes. It has since expanded that ordinance to apply to all foam containers, except for those used with raw meat.

According to the Surfrider Foundation, Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor Islands, Hollywood Key Biscayne, North Bay Village and Surfside have also adopted some restrictions on polystyrene products in Florida.

Miami Herald, Legislature advances bill to prevent local regulation of Styrofoam trash, March 8, 2016

Meanwhile, Surfside is rescinding its new ban of single-use plastics after receiving threats of lawsuits from Florida Retail Federation, the same group that sued the City of Coral Gables.

The bottom line is that neither the Florida Retail Federation, nor our Republican-controlled Florida State government, seem to care about Florida’s environment. This seems particularly short-sighted for a state so reliant on tourism.