New Gainesville ordinances aim to reduce plastic waste
Published on August 30, 2022
The first of several new solid waste ordinances approved by the Gainesville City Commission is scheduled to take effect Friday, Sept. 2.
In June, the commission approved three new zero waste ordinances, renewing the City’s commitment to protecting the environment through sustainable practices, and to reaching its zero-waste goal by 2040. Initial notifications outlining the changes were mailed out to Gainesville businesses in July.
“The changes will help reduce the amount of plastic litter in our community and keep it off the streets, and out of our parks, greenspaces and waterways,” said Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, chair of the Zero Waste Subcommittee that drafted the new ordinances with input gathered from neighbors and business owners during the previous two years.
One change included in the new ordinances applies to single-use plastic food accessories such as plastic utensils, condiment packets and portion cups. The new ordinance limits dispensing these items unless they’re specifically requested by the customer or are made available to the customers at self-serve stations.
“Each of us can decide for ourselves whether or not we need plastic utensils rather than having them routinely thrown in with our orders. Together we can cut down on the amount of plastic waste polluting our environment,” he said.
Additional provisions scheduled to take effect Friday include requiring recycle bins for the collection of bottles and cans, and placing recycle bins next to garbage containers. The new changes impact fast-food establishments, convenience stores, supermarkets, bars and restaurants.
The new Gainesville ordinance also bans the intentional release of plastic balloons, consistent with a Florida statute designed to protect wildlife and marine animals.
The city’s ordinance includes a ban on the intentional release of plastic glitter and plastic confetti. Officials recommend the use of non-plastic alternatives such as paper confetti, and advise popping inflated balloons and disposing of them in the trash.
“Every helium balloon that’s released into the atmosphere returns to earth as litter, and none are recyclable. They break down into microplastics and create a hazard for our aquatic and land animals when ingested,” said City of Gainesville Sustainability Manager Mike Heimbach.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, scientists estimate more than eight millions tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year.
Future solid waste changes scheduled to become effective in 2023, 2024 and 2025 are designed to divert excess food and food waste out of area landfills through residential and commercial composting and through donation to food banks, soup kitchens and shelters.
Additional information on the city’s Zero Waste initiative are available at gainesvillefl.gov/ZeroWaste, or contact Sustainability Manager Michael Heimbach at HeimbachMJ@GainesvilleFL.gov.