STUART, Fla. — The city of Stuart is now cracking down on the use of plastic straws.
Businesses and vendors who continue to distribute them could face fines of up to $1000.
"Most of the enforcement right now with the plastic straw ordinance involves our neighborhood services division going out, talking to businesses and business owners, helping to get businesses into compliance that might not be," said City of Stuart Public Information Officer Ben Hogarth.
Hogarth said the ordinance was passed in late 2019 but that the year 2020 was used to educate businesses about the new policy rather than enforce it.
"The city was actually kind enough to give us a heads up and then we just made the adjustments," said AJ Cruz, Manager with Sailor's Return.
Cruz said his restaurant now uses straws made of paper instead of plastic, and that it is more costly.
"It's a great thing, it's biodegradable," said Cruz. "It does hurt a little bit of the bottom line because it's a bit more of an expensive product."
The first violation will be a fine of $25 followed by a $50 fine for the second.
Any subsequent violation will require a hearing in front of the city magistrate where fines of up to $1,000 may be imposed.
A separate city ordinance bans the use of any plastic and polystyrene items such as styrofoam cups from events held on city property.
"When we have 5,000 - 10,000 people at an event, we're not handing out 5,000 or 10,000 more straws," said Hogarth. "It just compounds the problem."
Nursing homes, medical, dental, and assisted living centers are exempt from the ordinance.
Cruz said his customers rarely notice the new paper straws.
"We went through a couple of products because some of the products didn't work for us," said Cruz. "One dissolves too quickly, another one we had I guess we had a guest complain that it made the drink taste a little funny."
Those that do, generally welcome the change.
"I think we do have a lot of people that care about the waters here," said Cruz. "For many years, they've been fighting the algae and everything."