Above: Plastics in the sewers in Little Havana (Photography: Randy García)
When Green Market opened its doors in Edgewater, its owner Pamela Barrera didn’t hesitate to hop on the environmental train with a clear idea: to promote recycling and eliminate the use of plastic within the Miami community.
TAll of her merchandise is based on biodegradable materials, and the products she sells are meant to be refilled into containers you have at home. For example, cleaning products and even food. “No one asked us to do it, it was a matter of social conscience. We got tired of seeing bins full of trash and pollution, we became aware of doing the right thing, and we wanted more people to do it,” Barrera stated when we visited her store.
The business now takes part in the Plastic Free 305 campaign, an initiative driven by the county that seeks voluntary commitment from local businesses to reduce or eliminate the use of plastic materials. Although Miami-Dade has thousands of businesses, only 60 have enrolled to participate. Twenty of them, like the Edition hotel in Miami Beach, have already completely eliminated the use of plastic materials, the county told us. Cruise companies such as Carnival, Virgin Voyages, and over a dozen hotels located along the Biscayne coast have also started using less harmful materials. “Plastic Free took off in 2022, but we didn’t have the funds to promote it. Now we’ll have more funding,” said Irela Bagué hopefully.
The county, like the rest of the local governments in Florida, had no choice but to launch these programs after the state legislature tied their hands, passing a law that prevents counties and municipalities from regulating single-use plastics or foam. “Cities and counties have prohibitions on prohibitions.” In fact, cities will be sued if they attempt to completely restrict polystyrene foam containers or single-use plastic bags, Bagué asserted. In light of the state’s inaction, cities like Coral Gables took action and have maintained limitations on the use of plastic bags since 2017. Several businesses, like Graziano’s market, have transitioned to using paper bags.
Above: Biscayne Bay Cleanup Day, where thousands of volunteers come together to help clean the Bay. (Photography: Carlos Zegarra)
“We would like all business owners to take the responsibility that belongs to them. Eliminating the use of straws, synthetic packaging, and non-renewable materials will help protect the water of the bay,” said JP Booker from the Ocean Conservancy. That organization is training and preparing students from Miami, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, and Medley to visit businesses in their communities and engage allies in the environmental improvement issue.
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