Ban on plastic bag use heard at Fla. Capitol

Hearing was message about future of plastic bag usage in state

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Legislation to allow local government to ban the use of plastic bags in supermarkets got a surprise hearing Thursday at the Capitol. It was doomed from the beginning because of a 10-cent bag fee, but the hearing itself was a message about the future.

Whole Foods stopped using plastic bags in 2008. Customer Elizabeth Halverson was shopping at the chain with her own reusable bag.

"Whenever you bring a bag, you get to donate 10 cents to the Whole Planet Foundation," said Halverson.

Customers also have the option of taking a dime per bag off their purchase. Whole Foods said the dime adds up to about $5 million a year to charities nationwide.

Legislation at the Capitol would have allowed local governments to ban plastic bags altogether.

Under the legislation, only big grocery stores and pharmacies would have to offer paper bags for a dime if you didn't bring your own bag, but half of that money would have gone to education.

The 10-cent fee doomed the bag bill. Florida retailers don't like it.

"If you want to be able to carry your bags home in a plastic bag, we don't want to just shove your goods across the counter and say, 'You know, carry them yourself or pay us five or 10 cents," said Samantha Padgett, of the Florida Retail Federation.

No-tax Republicans on the panel also praised the intent of getting plastic out of the environment.

"I want to commend you. It is good thinking about the future of Florida and I appreciate it," said Sen. Charles Dean, R-Inverness.

Environmentalists said just having the bill heard was a victory for the future.

"In Florida, only 12 percent (of plastic bags) are recycled and or reused," said Holly Parker, of the Surfrider Foundation.

While the legislation was withdrawn before it could be voted down, the hearing sends a message that sooner or later plastic bags will be on the endangered list.

About 690,000 tons of plastic bags and plastic wrappers are manufactured annually, and only 4.3 percent are recycled.

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