Ban Those Bags

The plastic shopping bag is a pox on our subtropical house

Things aren't much better across town at the Shoppes at Liberty City strip mall on NW 54th Street, where three deflated and dirty bags soggily litter the parking lot. Ronnie, a 47-year-old with a big smile, isn't aware of the petroleum connection to the fistful of bags in his right hand. Asked whether people should bring their own canvas bags to the store, he shakes his head. "No, people would be stealing if they brought they own bags," he says.

Ronnie backs Sarnoff's bag ban, however. "I'm down with it. Anything for the environment — hey, anything to keep us here."

Nearby, a large 48-year-old woman named Jay loads 27 plastic bags filled with trays of frozen food, gallon juice jugs, and canned beans into the trunk of a Toyota. "Plastic's convenient for me. I reuse them for garbage bags and to put Pampers in," she says. She is incredulous that someone would even consider banning plastic. "What else are we gonna use?" she wonders.

Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

Paper bags aren't an option, she says, because they attract roaches at home. And she doesn't like the idea of shelling out cash for canvas bags when the plastic ones are free. As far as the environmental benefits of canvas bags, Jay is skeptical. "The plastic is good enough," she says.

Publix, the state's largest grocery chain, could be a leader on this issue — but isn't. Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for the company, sidesteps the issue on whether Publix would encourage or even support a ban on bags in Miami. "Obviously we follow all local ordinances," she says. "But our job is to serve the customer." The idea of charging for plastic bags — something that international furniture giant IKEA does — isn't on the horizon for Publix.

She points out that Publix offers bag recycling outside its stores. But at the Biscayne and NE 50th Street location, the green bins are either empty or filled with trash.

Sarnoff admits it will be a struggle to wean people off plastic. His fellow commissioners aren't very enthusiastic about the ban. And he acknowledges he isn't much of an eco-leader. He uses plastic bags. He drives a BMW X5 SUV (but he has ordered a tiny Smart Car). And he drinks Evian water (in plastic bottles) by the case. Even before proposing the ordinance, he is exasperated by the anticipated opposition. "Maybe we can't ban plastic bags. But we can talk about it."

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