“When Zoé came in, she was right alongside our philosophy for the store,” says Sandra, adding that owner Deanna Wallin was excited to be a part of Zoé’s community project by displaying the window decal. Zoé did run into a few dissenters among business owners whom she believes didn’t want to put in the time or expense to switch from plastic to paper bags. “I don’t blame them because it does cost a lot to switch over,” Zoé says. “Plastic’s a lot cheaper, but the state can prohibit us from banning them but they can’t prohibit us from not using
them. We’ve got to take the initiative because they’re not stopping us from doing that.” Zoé wants to change the state law because she believes cities should have the freedom to make their own choices about plastics. Some communities agree, as municipal governments are taking action. The status of Florida’s law essentially “banning bans” on plastics appears murky. The law was related to a 2010 study on recyclable materials by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Statute 403.7033 states, in part, that until the Legislature adopts the DEP
city retailers and city events, according to news reports. Other cities have made similar moves, such as Pompano Beach requiring food vendors at city events to avoid putting takeout food in plastic foam clamshells; Palm Beach County enacting a balloon ban at oceanfront parks; and Hollywood enforcing a ban on plastics at restaurants east of the Intracoastal Waterway, news reports state. The state law also can’t prevent businesses from making their own choices about plastics. A slew of major corporations— SeaWorld, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Starbucks, Marriott,
of 2018, about 20 percent of Clermont’s waste stream is diverted from landfills. Tavares utilizes “green building” initiatives for construction, and also has participated in America in Bloom, a national program that rewards cities for planting trees and flowers to contribute to a clean environment. Keep Lake Beautiful, the Lake County affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, regularly conducts waterfront cleanups, and Lake and Sumter counties collect household hazardous waste at various sites throughout the year. In Zoé’s hometown, the
THE STATE CAN PROHIBIT US FROM BANNING THEM BUT THEY CAN’T PROHIBIT US FROM NOT USING THEM. WE’VE GOT TO TAKE THE INITIATIVE. —ZOÉ MUELLER
WASTE MANAGEMENT PROVIDED REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS FOR ZOÉ’S PROJECT.
recommendations, no local government, or local or state government agencies may regulate the use of auxiliary containers, wrappings, or disposable plastic bags. However, in a lawsuit over Styrofoam containers between the city of Coral Gables and the Florida Retail Federation, a judge noted in 2017 that the Legislature had not adopted the DEP recommendations and the statute guidelines were “unconstitutionally vague.” This left cities in limbo with regard to regulating recyclable materials, the judge said. Coral Gables was allowed to institute a ban on Styrofoam containers, and in May 2017, became the first city in Florida to ban singleuse carryout plastic bags at
McDonald’s, Red Lobster, United Airlines, American Airlines, Busch Gardens, Dunkin’ Donuts, Kroger, among others—are getting rid of one or more plastic or polystyrene products, according to news reports. Locally, other communities in Lake and Sumter counties haven’t specifically grabbed hold of the plastic bag issue, but many are environmentally conscious. The city of Clermont, for example, hosts an annual Earth Day & Lake Cleanup with environmental education for adults and children, and the collection of more than 1,800 pounds of trash annually, the city website states. The city’s Environmental Services Department reports that as
Mount Dora Friends of the Environment co-sponsors an Earth Day festival each April, and this year’s theme was “Living Plastic Wise.” She hopes to plan some events with the organization in the future. Zoé has a lot on her biodegradable plate. She draws inspiration from her mother, Jennifer, who gives her daily affirmations like “You can do this!” For confidence, she credits the Girl Scouts’ tradition of knocking on strangers’ doors and selling cookies, which she’s done since age 7. “That took a lot of courage,” Zoé says. “After that, I was like, there’s nothing stopping me from doing this. I just have to stand up and say something.”
Every month. Everywhere.