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What will it take to ban plastic bags?

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jan 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-06 20:11:26-05

It's a story that's touched a nerve with many of you, a push to give local cities the authority over using plastic bags.

Right now only the state has that power but your questions and comments prompted us to ask why.

As part of an energy bill passed with an overwhelming majority, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was tasked with analyzing the need for new or different regulation of auxiliary containers, wrappings, or disposable plastic bags used by consumers to carry products from retail establishments.

The law also sates no local government, local agency or state agency could regulate the plastic bag industry until that report was delivered.

In 2010, DEP presented its findings. Here are some key points:

  • “While many retail establishments have taken steps to address this problem, there is still a potential for harm to the environment due to improper handling and disposal."
  • “While plastic bags may appear to be the major problem, the solution is not to switch to paper. Life cycle analysis show a higher level of environmental harm from manufacturing to disposal of paper compared to plastic bags. A switch to biodegradable or compostable bags is not the answer either. Since Florida has no solid waste commercial scale composting facility to handle these bags, they would end up in a landfill just like paper or plastic bags.”
  • "It is recommended that the Legislature review the available options and take action to discourage the use of single-use paper and plastic retail bags and encourage the use of reusable retail bags."

So far the legislature has failed to act. Minority House Leader Mark Pafford blames the delay on lawmakers who fail to stand up to special interest.

"People need to start being a little more smart when they place their votes. If you elect cowards then eventually you're going to get that product.”

Now cities and counties are taking a stand and want the final word on plastic bags. Terry Hamilton with the Surfrider Foundation says if you want plastic bags banned you have to get involved.

"Call your local legislators, your local lawmakers, your county commissioners because I believe that’s what they're waiting for."

Hamilton supports a legislative proposal West Palm Beach recently endorsed. The Surfrider Foundation says House Bill 143 and Senate Bill 306 would allow cities with less than 100-thousand people to create a pilot program regulating or banning disposable bags.