Drink up on Fort Myers Beach, but do it without a plastic straw.

This is an environmental win – although a small one – and we congratulate the Fort Myers Beach Town Council for adopting the ordinance banning plastic straws in most places on Monday. Plastic straws are harmful because they pose a threat to marine life, which ingests them. Eliminating the straws also helps keep the town and the beaches free of at least some trash.

Many other coastal communities in Florida and across the United States have adopted similar ordinances or are considering the ban.

When the ordinance does go into effect in 90 days, we hope the town follows through with a key component, requiring the town’s code enforcement and beach and street enforcement divisions to enforce the new town policy.

Fortunately for the town, several businesses in the area were proactive and have not been passing out plastic straws, using paper instead.

The town council should consider taking other environmental steps and banning other plastic products as well, or at least look into increasing the number of recycling receptacles in the town and on the beach. Anything plastic is not good for the environment. It does not break down, like paper, and it can be ingested by animals, or they can become entangled in it.

Plastic is especially toxic for marine mammals, seabirds, turtles, fish and crustaceans. Studies note that turtles will often confuse plastic bags for jelly fish and ingest the bags. Plastic can destroy an animal’s digestive system.  

Vice Mayor Tracey Gore hinted the town may ban other plastic in the future, saying “we’re starting with straws.”

Restaurants, bars, stores and beach goers will be expected to comply or face fines of $100 for a first offense to $500 for a third offense, or higher amounts for habitual violators. We encourage the town’s code enforcement office to use the next 90 days to educate businesses and those on the beach on the new ordinance.

Plastic may be out, but the ordinance does allow for paper, plant vegetable and other materials containing nothing artificial or synthetic in their compounds.

The beach took an important environmental step on Monday, but we will expect more. The land, water and sea life depend on it. 

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