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Lawmakers aim to ban plastic bags in stores near water

A man carries a plastic shopping bag. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images)
A man carries a plastic shopping bag. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Paper or plastic? The common grocery store phrase could be a thing of the past. Some environmentally conscious lawmakers have proposed allowing cities near the water the option to ban plastic bags.

Last year, a proposal was shot down that would have allowed all local governments the option to ban the plastic bag. Big grocery stores and pharmacies would have charged customers a dime extra if they didn't bring their own bags.

Kathleen Turner refused to use a plastic bag. She was on her way into Whole Foods with a reusable bag for groceries and said she wouldn't mind seeing the common plastic bag done away with.

"I think the ban is late," Turner said. "I think they should have done it earlier. I think we're way behind the times."

Some environmental conscious lawmakers are with her and have filed legislation that could impact plastic bag use in the state.

It won't be an outright ban, but in 2016, lawmakers will consider a bill that could prohibit the plastic bags around coastal communities.

The proposed bill would give local governments near the water the option of making their own rules or bans on plastic bags. It's being pushed as a 2 1/2-year pilot program.

Environmentalist Julie Wraithmell said the bags wreak havoc on Florida's ecosystem.

"They do cause tremendous problems for our communities," Wraithmell said. "They affect wildlife, they also effect your tax dollars. When waste water storm drains get clogged, a lot of times these are the culprit."

She said the bill is a step in the right direction.

"Florida has a long history of letting local governments decide what's best for their constituents, and as long as local governments are more protective than the state, rather than less, that's a good standard," Wraithmell said.

Some stores have banned the bags already and opt for paper or biodegradable bags for customers instead.