Florida wonders, should plastic shopping bags be banned?

A much-anticipated report from state environmental regulators may spur Florida lawmakers to consider a ban on plastic retail bags.

Sen. Lee Constantine of Altamonte Springs, the Republican chairman of the Senate's environmental committee, was adamant Tuesday about prodding the Legislature to act.

``We are working together to try to (increase recycling). This is part of an opportunity,'' he said. ``If we don't control or find a way to start reusing these better we're never going to get there.''

Citing clogged landfills and roadside litter, Constantine pressed a Florida Department of Environmental Protection official for a solution to the ``plastic or paper'' question.

The 12 options identified by state environmental officials in a report range from an educational campaign about reusable bags, to fees or a complete ban.

The waste management agency issued a draft report in October that recommended a graduated fee for plastic and paper bags followed eventually by a ban. But it rescinded the draft and the final version issued earlier this month contains a distinctly softer tone and no recommendations.

A 2003 study found U.S. residents used 90 billion retail bags that year. In Florida, only 12 percent of plastic bags and 37 percent of paper bags are reused or recycled, according to state figures. Across the nation, about 30 states have enacted or considered bag regulations.

The state's business lobby, which opposes any change, succeeded in tucking a provision into Florida's 2008 energy bill that prohibited local governments from banning plastic bags. At the time, a number of Florida communities had been considering regulations, including Miami, Parkland, Key West and Sarasota.

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