In an innovative partnership between the Cutler Bay Mayor Edward MacDougall and area students, an effort is being launched finally to do something about plastic bags that are clogging waterways and endangering wildlife in South Florida.
“In 2008 I made an inquiry about what could be done to regulate plastic bags, and at the time legal [the town attorney] advised me that there was a Florida statute passed by the legislature that no municipality or government in the state of Florida could undertake any regulation of plastic bags until a full report was made by the Florida Department Of Environmental Resources,” MacDougall said.
“The legislature said they would wait for a recommendation and paperwork to be filed Feb. 1, 2010. So the report was filed, and it is an absolutely perfect recipe for banning or regulating plastic bags. There’s no question about it.”
MacDougall said that some of the countries that already have outlawed plastic bags are Rwanda, Somaliland, Tanzania, Bangladesh, China, Bhutan, India, Taiwan, Australia, Israel and the Maldives.
“The United States is sitting here virtually doing nothing,” MacDougall said. “Only one bill was filed in the 2011 legislature to try to do something about it and it never made it past the House. Nothing was filed this year. I’ve spoken to our lobbyists and they’ve said that nothing can be done — that the lobbyists for the Retail Federation are too strong and it will just never happen.”
Then the mayor received a simple handwritten letter from a second grade student at Whigham Elementary School.
“Dear Mayor MacDougall,” the letter read. “My name is Dawson Delesdernier and I am 8 years old. When I go fishing with my dad there is plastic in the water. The fish are eating it and they are choking on it. Some cities have banned plastic bags. Please ban bags in Cutler Bay so that we don’t have plastic bags in the water.”
Mayor MacDougall went out to the school on Tuesday, Mar. 20, to speak with the students and teachers about the issue and found not only support but the hope that student involvement could be the catalyzing force to get the legislature moving.
“I told our lobbyists about the second grader and about my hopes to start a movement at each school at Cutler Bay to try to put together petitions to allow municipalities to govern plastic bags,” MacDougall said. “Now they’re telling us that this will work, that getting the schools involved will make a difference.
“This is going to be a tremendous movement and I’m really excited about it. I want to get all the kids behind us and the [Miami-Dade] School Board as well. I think it’s going to change the course of where we’re headed.”