MANATEE — Manasota-88 is recommending banning the use of plastic grocery bags locally, and is requesting that Manatee and Sarasota counties not accept them in their landfills beginning Feb. 10, 2010.
The environmental watchdog says that grocery bags litter streets, beaches, sewer systems and marine environments.
Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags annually, according to the Worldwatch Institute.
But the recommendation faces opposition, in part from Manatee County government and the corporate world.
“A ban on plastic bags would be difficult for local businesses to handle,” said Manatee County government spokesman Nick Azzara, “and the county is really trying to become more a business-friendly. So it’s hard to see how to make those two marry-up.”
Azzara said the county hasn’t taken a position and would take the recommendation seriously if it seemed more feasible.
Manasota-88 is awaiting the results of a Department of Environmental Protection study on the cost and benefits of such a ban. The DEP has a deadline of Feb. 1, 2010, to conclude its study.
Publix Super Markets spokeswoman Shannon Patton said Publix would oppose a ban on plastic bags, but the company thinks it’s important to give customers choices. Publix offers reusable bags at 99 cents a piece. She said that in 2007, more than 7.5 million of the bags were sold companywide.
“And we’ve given away millions of bags as well,” Patton said. “They are 100 percent recyclable and they’re also made from a base of recycled product.”
Wal-Mart has announced efforts to reduce the weight of its global plastic shopping bag waste by an average of 33 percent per store by 2013. The announcement was made Sept. 24, 2008 at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. Wal-Mart estimated that 290,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases are expected to be reduced or avoided each year from existing stores.
Glenn Compton, director of Manasota-88, acknowledges that a complete ban on plastic bags is an uphill struggle.
“If Americans can’t do it, it can’t be done anywhere in the world,” Compton said. “The mindset that has to change is that plastic bags are not necessary for commerce.”
Manasota-88 states in its newsletter that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, plastic bags endanger wildlife by polluting land and water, and that it takes more than 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose in a landfill.
“The more studies are done on plastic grocery bags,” Compton said, “the more we realize it is an unacceptable environmental hazard.”
Nick Walter, staff writer, can be reached at 745-7013.