The South Carolina House of Representatives will soon debate legislation that will put constraints on local municipalities’ ability to regulate plastic bag use. First proposed in January in the State Senate, the bill was discussed there on February 2 and passed 13-3 to the House of Representatives. It awaits a second reading and further debate.
The bill calls for an amendment to South Carolina law that would require that regulation on the use or sale of auxiliary containers – such as bags, bottles and other packaging – be done only by the state’s General Assembly. The legislation would effectively block local cities and towns from being able to institute local bans on single-use plastic bags, something communities across the country have been doing in greater numbers in an effort to reduce litter and environmental pollution from the bags. Bag bans have the potential to be a boon to the promotional products industry, which can capitalize by selling more reusable totes in impacted markets.
In South Carolina, proponents of prohibiting municipalities from instituting bag bans say the regulation is necessary to prevent a patchwork of legislation that is potentially confusing and costly for businesses and consumers. “What I felt is that we needed uniformity,” said bill author Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Greenville, in an interview with the Aiken Standard. “We needed to create a statewide standard that says, ‘If this is what you want to do, this is how you’re going to do it’…We needed normalcy and standardization.”
Meanwhile, environmentalists continue to push against the bill that would bar local control of bag bans. “It’s a two-fold issue,” Susan Corbett, state chair of the South Carolina Sierra Club, told WISTV in South Carolina. “It’s whether or not communities have a voice and a right to decide what’s best for their communities, and how much plastic we’re going to allow to be dumped in our environment. And how do we stop it? We don’t do a very good job of recycling in this state. We haven’t even reached the national average.”
Adding to the debate is the fact that South Carolina has been a “home rule” state since 1975, meaning the state government has given municipalities the freedom to self-govern as necessary.
The bill is scheduled for debate in the South Carolina House of Representatives later this month.
In January, the state of Michigan passed legislation that prohibits local governments from banning, regulating or imposing fees on plastic bags and other containers.