The story comes up from time to time about what to do with plastic bags you get from the supermarket, or, for that matter, any retailer.

Is it practical to ban retailers from using them?

After all, how many times have you “brown bagged” lunch…but the brown bag has now become a Wegman’s bag?

Or when you’ve walked the dog and picked up after it….what do you use?

The plastic bag, of course.

(Unless you’re like my neighbors across the street who have 2 mastiffs and need the entire Sunday Times…but that’s another story!)

The state Legislature’s environmental committees heard dueling arguments Monday on legislation that would regulate or ban the use of ubiquitous plastic shopping bags, seen by environmental groups as an escalating source of plastic pollution.

“We believe educating consumers about recycling” is the best way to reduce bag litter, Lorelei N. Mottese of the Wakefern Food Corp. told lawmakers, speaking for the parent group of the ShopRite supermarket cooperative.

ShopRite operators solicit customers to return bags for recycle, and to use their own reusable shopping totes, with a few cents off the bill for every plastic bag not used.

But only a small fraction of bags get recycled, said John Weber of the Surfrider Foundation, a surfers’ environmental group that has lobbied for plastic bag bans.

Thin plastic bags degrade in sunlight, but “those pieces are still plastic. It’s going up the food chain. You catch fish in the mid-Pacific, open their guts, and there’s plastic,” Weber said. It’s impractical to ban many plastics “but disposable plastics are something else.”

Washington, D.C., and 50 local governments in California are among those with bag bans or restricted use, Weber said.

Nine bills proposed in Trenton would restrict, phase out or encourage retailers to use fewer plastic bags. One state legislative proposal would mandate making some bags biodegradable, but that could hurt the market for bags as a recycling source for plastic lumber because those manufacturers don’t want plastic that will fall apart, Dempsey said.

Here’s an idea.

Call me crazy…but why not put a deposit on the bags, much the same way soda makers would put on glass bottles.

You could collect the bags over time, then bring them back to the store for a refund.

Besides, it would give homeless people a ready source of income.

Come to think of it…plastic bags just might be the new currency among the homeless.

Just a thought. Please share your thoughts below.