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Student pushes for plastic straw ban. New Port Richey listens.

NEW PORT RICHEY — If you think a young person driving for change on an important issue can’t catch the attention of local government, think again.

For eight months, Mitchell High School student Noah Denny has pushed for a plastic straw ban in New Port Richey. On Tuesday, city leaders told the 15-year-old they will crafting an ordinance to restrict the use of polystyrene products on city property.

The ordinance fell short of Denny’s desire for a ban of all plastic straws and other polystyrene products, such as single-use foam and plastic cups. But change could be coming for big events in the city’s parks and other public venues.

Denny first spoke to the Council in February about banning plastic straws, but he didn’t stop there. He met with the city’s Environmental Committee, which drafted a letter to council members recommending a ban. The committee’s chair, Dell DeChant, made a presentation with Denny in June, suggesting an ordinance.

The city surveyed its downtown restaurants and bars about a ban. Owners were overwhelmingly against it, City Manager Debbie Manns told council members on Tuesday, leading the staff to recommend against a citywide ban.

However, the feedback was not as negative as that may seem, Manns said. Many owners said they were open to doing away with plastics in the future.

“It sounded to me from some of the discussion I had with the local business community is that sometime in the future it might be appropriate to do so,” Manns said.

“We are, though, interested in restricting the use of polystyrene on public properties,” Manns said.

The council liked the idea, especially since New Port Richey hosts some of the larger events in the region, including Chasco Fiesta and the Cotee River Bike Fest, which draw thousands of people each year.

The New Port Richey ordinance would be a way for the city to take a lead that businesses may later follow, City Council member Peter Altman said.

“The idea of us starting at home with our own, I think, is a good way for us to demonstrate our leadership,” he said.

Denny, the student activist, said he plans to continue working toward an overall ban in the city. He also thanked the city staff.

“I am glad you are looking at the polystyrene restrictions. I am glad about that,” he told the Council.