After being given a year for preparation, Coral Gables restaurants and stores replaced the plastic bags at their establishments with recycled paper bags and canvas bags.
“I am super happy about the resolution,” said business owner, Sandra Moreira. Her clothing boutique is located on Miracle Mile and they’ve been using paper bags for the last 14 years.
“I’m excited to be part of this change as a business owner,” Moreira said.
On May 10, 2017, the city of Coral Gables approved a city ordinance banning Coral Gables businesses from using single-use plastic bags and replacing them with reusable, recyclable or compostable alternatives. Businesses were given a grace period of 12 months to transition.
According to Matthew Anderson, senior sustainability analyst at the city of Coral Gables, this period focused on giving businesses the opportunity to utilize any remaining stock of single-use plastic bags.
“We didn’t want this to be a huge economic burden to any of our businesses. We didn’t want to tell them, ‘Hey, you need to throw all of that away and transition immediately,’” he said.
Crema coffee shop manager, Maria Soler said paper bags are more expensive for their business. They haven’t fully transitioned from plastic bags, however they’re planning on offsetting the financial burden by negotiating bigger orders with their distributors. They hope that by creating a bigger demand of paper bags, prices will drop.
“We’re using our remaining plastic bags for trash and only use paper bags for big orders. We try not to hand out bags automatically,” Soler said.
In addition, the city enacted an educational campaign concentrating on the different alternatives and benefits of a single-use plastic ban.
The city’s main suggestion to business owners was to not only switch to a sustainable alternative, whether it be a reusable bag or a paper bag, but to also educate their clientele by asking if they need a bag before handing one out.
According to Anderson, even if it’s a sustainable alternative, the goal is to reduce the amount of bags businesses are giving out.
“Not giving out as many bags could also be a way for business owners to outweigh some of the costs involved in transitioning away from plastic,” he said.
Moreiro agreed, she said that when customers don’t ask for a bag, they’re helping out business owners.
“I always try to use as little bags as I can. I try to make room in one bag to fit everything in,” she said.
As stated by Anderson, the city’s main goal is to cause an impact on their waste stream. He said most cities and municipalities don’t accept plastic bags in any single-stream recycling program. This means that if plastic bags are not disposed correctly it becomes a threat to storm drains and sewer systems.
“The reality is, they end up in a landfill or they end up for the most part in our waterways,” he said.
Anderson said that the perfect example of the impact presented by this ban is seeing chain stores such as Publix make the change.
“The amount of people that go into a store like that or even our smaller medium-size stores in the coral gables area. We know that this is having a huge impact in our community.”
However, transitioning from plastic remains a challenge for some businesses in Coral Gables. For this reason, some refused to speak about their policies.
That is the case with the Barnes & Noble located on Miracle Mile. Alex Ortolani, Director of communications for the company, said that the store is transitioning to using paper bags only, which will be fully in place in coming weeks.
Anderson stated that some businesses received a warning of 10-14 days, which might be the reason why they hadn’t transitioned.
“Our angle is not to fine the businesses, but to work with them,” he said, “we want to communicate with them and find out how we can help them transition.”